Our Morning with a
New England Fish Monger
Words by Ashley Herrin
Photos by Jenn Bakos and Ashley Herrin
Adelaïde Gross spends her Saturday mornings unlike most New Englanders. While the region is cozying further into their down comforters or just stirring to make their first pot of coffee for the day, Adelaïde is en route to the Boston Fish Pier where she works as a fishmonger for Red’s Best. From the South Boston fish pier located at Northern Ave., she packs fish pulled from the chilly Atlantic and prepares for a morning routine of delivering the fresh goods to neighboring markets.
The Boston Fish Pier opened in 1914 (or ‘15… depending on who you ask) and was once the bustling hub of New England’s fishing industry. A number of decades later and the once-flourishing Fish Pier fell victim to territorial disputes with Canada and regional over-fishing, which in turn left the pier in a state of disarray and abandonment. This once bustling port of trade was struggling to keep its head above water as considerations were made to turn the pier into other commercial developments. In the early 1970’s the Massachusetts Port Authority stepped in and took control of the pier with goals of restoring the facility for the Massachusetts fishing industry. Today the facility has been overhauled into a mixed-use waterfront development, keeping fishing and fish processing at the forefront of its primary function.
We arrived at the Boston Fish Pier at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. The pier was quiet except for a few eager customers waiting to purchase fresh fish. A winter chill hung in the air, lingering just above the harbor as the sun glistened off the gently stirring waves.
Adelaïde pulled into the parking spot next to us, a bit frenzied thinking she was running late (we were actually just early). She jumped out of her car in excitement. Her welcoming personality, thick Massachusetts accent and radiating smile made us feel right at home.
We then took a quick tour of the facility before Adelaïde set off on her Saturday morning routine. The facility was loaded with bins full of fresh fish, seafood and shellfish pulled from New England’s waters; oysters, salmon, razor clams, scallops, cod and redfish to name a just a few of the fresh pull. At Red’s, all fish is temperature-monitored and covered in layers of ice until purchase. Further, they provide only the highest quality catch – with all fish being fresh, wild caught and never frozen.
Adelaïde’s Saturday morning routine involves sorting and packing coolers full of fish before heading out on the market run. After checking the boxes off of the morning’s to-do list, we headed in the fish truck and set off for Jamaica Plain. One stop at City Feed followed by the Egleston Farmers Market, where she set’s up a vendor booth and sells the fresh catch to area residents, many of whom return week after week for the fresh fish.
As Adelaïde demonstrated (probably unknowingly because it’s second-nature), fish mongering in today’s market requires not only a strong knowledge of the fishing industry, but also a neighborly disposition and cheerful personality to match – all of which she possesses. In decades past, a fishmonger might stir images of burly men with salt styled hair, faded flannels, sun-kissed cheeks and the au naturel scent of the Atlantic. That still might be true in some areas, but in New England, new faces, such as Adelaïde, have made an unforgettable mark on the industry.
To most, this Saturday morning is far from routine, but it’s stories like these and people like Adelaïde that keep New England’s traditions alive and well.