When I was a child eating fish was a scary proposition. Everyone knew it was good for you. And it was even tasty. But beware of the dreaded fish bones. If you got one lodged in your throat it could kill you. And it seemed all fish had them. They were hard to see, looking very much like the flesh of the fish. Even when you went to a fancy restaurant and the waiter boned the fish in front of you, tiny dangerous bones were usually left to surprise you. You'd suddenly have to put your fingers in your mouth and search around to find the piercingly sharp bone amongst the partially chewed food.
It’s no wonder that people greeted the first frozen fish sticks like they were the new sliced bread. Finally, fish could be a part of the normal diet. It didn’t have to just be the penance for those Catholics, who were forced by church law prohibiting meat on Fridays, to risk their life eating fish.
Canned tuna was safe, no bones there. So people everywhere turned tuna into dozens of varieties of casseroles. Somehow the tuna canners could remove the bones from the giant fish. Canned salmon was also safe, while considerably more expensive. It wasn’t necessary to worry about bones in canned salmon because the canning process softened the bones so if they were found, and they were in every can, they could actually be eaten with no danger. But retailers and restaurant chefs and certainly fish stores could never seem to find all the bones. Somehow in those days the bones were elusive to everyone but the diners.
Why am I bothering to write this on a mystery blog? Well, it’s a mystery and as I always say much of life is a mystery. The other day I had some friends to dinner. I wanted to serve catfish and I asked them if they liked it. The wife said her husband only liked fish with no bones. That reminded me that I never worry about fish bones any more. Yet that was a major worry for many years and even though I loved fish I never ordered it in a restaurant for fear of catching a bone in my throat in front off all the diners.
As a matter of fact when I started thinking about it, I remembered the first date I had with the man who became my husband. He took me out to lunch at a very nice fish restaurant in San Francisco. I ordered something safe with no bones, probably shrimp, and he ordered a pan fried trout. I watch amazed as he dug into that trout with his fork and knife, all the while talking and charming me. He never once peered closely at what his fork was doing with the fish as he demolished it, leaving the bones on the plate. He never choked, or even paused. I was totally amazed at his bravery. I think that was when I unconsciously decided to marry him. He was my hero.
But the mystery is now I buy bags of frozen fish fillets, catfish, Talipia, salmon, cod, perch and etc. and I never even think about bones. There are no bones in these fillets! Have they bred the bones out? Are the fish today like seedless watermelons? Where have all the fish bones gone?
I’m certainly not complaining. I like eating fish several times a week. I appreciate not having the worry of choking to death when I go out for a meal, but I just don’t understand why they can and are removed today and could not be fifty years ago. We may not be flying our individual cars through the skies to our destinations as they promised in the fifties, but hey, we are no longer worrying about fish bones, so there have been monumental improvements during the intervening years and who knows what the future will bring that we might not notice either.

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Comment by Eric Christopherson on July 23, 2009 at 7:04am
Part of the mystery at least is answered in here at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-End-of-Overeating/David-A-Kessler/e/9781605297859

There's been a concerted effort on the part of food manufactureres to make it easy to gobble great quantities of food quickly. Not sure if boneless fish is covered specifically though.

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