I will admit it. I am a huge trivia fan. I collect random pieces of trivial information in hope that it one day might come in handy. This has led to an undefeated streak in Trivial Pursuit that began in the last millennium. It also leads to me seeking out opportunities to play trivia whenever possible. This usually results in me being reminded how incomplete my collection is.
It also means that at work I get all sorts of trivial food questions thrown out at me by guests and coworkers. Between writing this blog and studying on my own before that, I am pretty capable of handling most of them. Occasionally though I will get hit with something I do not have a definitive answer for. This usually results in me sitting down at the computer after work to find answers. This week I have actually been hit with some good ones. Today I thought I would share some of the questions and answers with you.
Pink Scallops: A guest stopped me as I did a check back on her scallop entrée this week. She pointed to one and asked why it was still pink. Her concern was that it was undercooked. I knew that was not the case because I have cooked scallops and know they start off white. I went to the line to ask the chef and one of the cooks replied, “It’s pink because it is a girl.” I gave him a dirty look because this was not a time for a joke. I asked the chef again and the cook got offended.
Turns out he was right. While there is a commercially available type of scallop called the spiny pink scallop, it comes from the Pacific and ours come from the Georges Bank. The more likely answer is that the scallop was a female who was carrying roe. Scallop roe is red and turns the scallop flesh a pinkish color. Divers generally avoid these scallops to ensure they will be allowed to produce more scallops. The roe does not alter the flavor of the scallop.
Prawns: Another guest asked what makes a shrimp a prawn. I replied that all prawns were shrimp, but not all shrimp are prawns. I threw the question out to the same line cook and he said it was based on size. If they are over an ounce each (ie under 15 in a pound), they are a prawn. Turns out we were both sort of wrong.
Prawns and shrimp are technically different species. Both are members of the order decopoda (along with crabs and lobsters), but that is where it splits. The sub order is different based on their breathing apparatus. Prawns will also have claws on three pairs of legs and shrimp will have claws on just two. The commercial definition is more ambiguous than the scientific one. For marketing purposes “shrimp” and “prawn” are interchangeable. However in most cases it is used to distinguish size and 15 per pound is the norm.
Rainbow Trout: A young man from New Zealand came in the other evening. He asked me how old the trout on the menu was. I gave him my standard reply about freshness and moved on. Later his mother pointed out to me that he was wondering the actual age of the trout and not about the freshness. Again, I went to the same line cook. This time he took me to the book in back where he looked up his answers to the previous questions. We looked through several books and could not come up with an answer. The chef guessed three years. The cook guessed two years. I was going with under a year.
A great deal of searching through technical documents on raising trout resulted in an answer. I was redeemed. It takes a trout 2-3 weeks to exit the fry stage. After that period, in a raceway system, it takes 9 months to reach market size. Open water pens have been shown to increase this rate, but are far less common.
The internet is a grand tool for finding these answers. I still get stumped, but at least now I have the ability to satisfy my own curiosity. Hopefully some of this information will come in handy to some of you. At least it might save someone else looking for the same answers all of the technical reading I had to do to find them. If nothing else, when the fish category comes up at trivia night I am going to kick some ass.