I don't send stuff back in restaurants, I rarely return anything I buy, and in general I hate to complain about bad service. If something's not to my liking, I go elsewhere next time. So why am I writing this letter to Whole Foods? Because I think it's wrong for them to sell unscaled fish. Sure I can go somewhere else (hey, let's face it -- I usually do), but I know lots of people who only buy fish at Whole Foods and don't know how to scale fish. With any other store, I would just let it go, but I have hope that Whole Foods will not ignore my feedback and will try to fix the problem. Am I overly optimistic? Maybe. I'll let you know if I ever hear back from them.
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Dear Whole Foods,
I have been a loyal customer of the fish departments in several of your Boston area stores for over 5 years. Although the quality of the fish is consistently high, I find that the care in preparation of the fish for cooking has declined in the last few years. I can’t count the number of times I unwrapped my fillet and found it unscaled.
This happened again last week when I bought a beautiful fillet of striped bass. As I rubbed it with salt and pepper, I realized that the scales were still on. I turned off the heat under my pan, rolled up my sleeves, and attempted to scale this poor fillet the best I could. I was frustrated not only because my dinner got delayed, but also because scaling fish after it is filleted is not particularly easy (since there is no tail to grab onto).
Unscaled fillets are not the only problem I’ve encountered. Asking for help from the fish department in scaling and gutting a whole fish is also a gamble. Several times, I brought a whole fish home that was poorly scaled, or had pieces of guts and gills still left in.
While this is a nuisance for me, it is a real turn off for cooks who are less experienced with fish. Many people don’t cook fish on regular basis. If they try to cook salmon or striped bass with the skin as their recipe suggests, they will end up with a plate full of scales and are likely to never try this fish again, or conclude that they should discard its skin (not only the most delicious, but most nutritional part of many fish).
I hope you can address this problem. Many cooks count on you not only to sell high quality products, but also introduce them to new foods, and educate them about cooking techniques. Providing properly cleaned fish can encourage people to cook it more often and to try new fish without worrying about what obstacles they might encounter before putting it in the pan.
Helen M. Rennie