Carp? Eh what? Ewwww!!!
Even the name is loaded. Apart from terms like 'carping', there's a natural tendency to swap the 'r' and the 'a'.
The odd thing here is how socially constructed these reactions are.
In fact, I believe there was a DNR regulation against returning carp to the river. All too often, your walk would be punctuated with the sound of some cursing Captain Ahab slamming his unwanted catch repeatedly against the rocks. Needless to say, all of these dead carp lent a distinct sachet to the morning.
A huge carp was grubbing in a blanket of watercress. My first reaction was a deep, tow-curdling disgust… but then I paused to watch the creature. Its stubby fins flared and quivered in an oddly playful fashion as it rooted in the mud, pirouetting like one of the hippo ballerinas from Fantasia.
I walked away carrying two weirdly incompatible platonic ideals of ‘carpness’ in my head- and a lot more ambivalence towards carp overall.
As of 2012, non-native carp knocked out a series of commercial fisheries along the Illinois and Missouri Rivers, and they now account for a majority of the visible biomass in these waterways. They’re a trophic-web time bomb.
For one thing… Silver Carp fly.
There must be some noisy, gargantuan predator in their native range. In any case, the sound of a boat motor sends silver carp airborne. Honestly, the first time a saw a photo of leaping silver carp, I thought it manufactured. It’s not. They really do that. Imagine some yahoo riding his beloved crotch-rocket jet ski down some Illinois River backwater at 30 mph, and face-planting into a 40 pound, smooch-mouthed leaping leviathan.
It’s also remarkable how the public attitude towards carp changes in other parts of the world.
On May 5 (Kodomo no Hi- Children’s Day), the Japanese fly windsocks painted like carp to symbolize family. The Chinese and Japanese believed that carp were symbols of boldness and perseverance, of courage in the face of adversity. Remarkably, the Chinese even believed that a carp that fought upstream against a current would morph into a dragon.
Our North American attitudes towards carp as food are socially constructed as well. Carp is viewed as a delicacy and a sport fish in Asia, and the old world in general.
- Jewish family keeps carp in tub for making Passover Gefilte Fish
- Kids fall in love with carp and try smuggle it down to a neighbors bathroom
- The inevitable happens
(I desperately wanted one of those fishing cormorants... mind you- who wouldn't?)
Anyhow, it’s disturbing how a symbol of courage and beauty, commensurate with dragons, can be painted as utter trash when placed in the wrong biological niche.
There’s something endearing about Uncle Jesse and his posse ripping down the waterways, knocking carp out of the air with baseball bats… but it’s a bit troubling, the manner in which we castigate wild things when they refuse to conform to the rules. Sea Gulls invade our landfills, and we call them flying rats. Purple loosestrife clogs our ponds, and we break out the flamethrowers.
So I named this particular piece Moltrix after the Tournament. I picture a silver carp leaping in the wake of a passing boat, safe from the nets, eyeballing the passage to the great Lakes.
No- I’m not REALLY rooting for the fish in this case.
But part of me wants to.