State of the Union, fine. Now let’s talk state of the salmon.

It took President Obama 6,955 words to share his vision for the future of America.

He told us, “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” and spoke of jobs, heroes, and the “need to celebrate winners of science fairs” and to “reward good teachers and stop making excuse for bad ones.”

But here at Seattle’s Pike Place Market today, among the ice-filled bins holding an array of clear-eye fish, the chatter among fishmongers and shoppers who saw the State of the Union speech was all about the 34-words Obama uttered halfway through his 71-minute address to denounce excessive bureaucracy:

Photo at Seattle’s Pike Place Market by Andrew Schneider

The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater,” he said, pausing as an experienced performer does, adding “and I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”

The President hit a popular note with his reference to salmon, which are said to occupy more menu space throughout North American than any other fin fish.

But in the Pacific Northwest, adoration of salmon has almost a religious zeal.

“Why does the president even care about salmon? It’s just a fish,” asked a shopper visiting from Iowa.

Shaking a huge shovel of ice over the neat rows of King, Coho and Sockeye salmon,  the fishmonger snapped,  “and a Ferrari is just a car.”

(The offended visitor made some reference to Iowa being the state with the first Presidential Caucus and mumbled that he doubted that the parade of would-be White House contenders would be discussing fish.)

A few yards down the crowded aisle at Pure Food Fish Market, another fish merchant was adjusting his display of alder-smoked salmon, and trying to explain to two visiting Korean businessmen that salmon deserved presidential attention: “They’re almost magical,” he said, explaining that the fish are born in fresh water, spend their lives in the ocean, then run a gauntlet of rocks, dams and rapids to their birthplace in order to spawn and die a short time later.

The country would be better place, he said, if the President would just outlaw farm-raised salmon. He added sadly: “That will never happen.”

this was also posted on AOL News and

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *