Thou shalt have a fish and thou shalt have a fin
Thou shalt have a codlin when the boat comes in
Thou shalt have haddock baked in a pan
Well, that (mothball) lasted a long time didn’t it?
Without further ado, I shall blame EllaDee for making me write a post on here. And even my partner, who thinks I spend far too much time writing drivel on blogs, said he thought I couldn’t last for long without it.
EllaDee wrote an entertaining piece about fish.
Now as everyone knows, unless you have selectively chosen to ignore my posts, I am vegetarian.
That means, for all those of you who really don’t understand the term, I don’t eat meat, birds, fish, cheese made with animal rennet (or any cheese if I can help it), or any eggs that aren’t free range, ie the eggs from my chickens are ok.
Please don’t make a crass comment about ‘My friend’s vegetarian and s/he eats fish/shellfish.’ If they say that, then quite frankly, they are wrong.
We had a similar discussion with a Spanish neighbour. She wanted to invite us to a barbecue, knew we were vegetarian but said that was fine and she would do some shellfish for us, mussels or clams or something. ‘That’s ok isn’t it?’ asked Selina.
‘But the Queen (of Spain, Sofia), is vegetarian and she eats them.’
I really don’t care whether she is the queen of Spain, Sheba, or anywhere else. She is not vegetarian.
Similarly I read a link to a good cookery blog today, where the author listed a fish recipe under a vegetarian category. Aaaaaaagh!! Please people, if you don’t know anything about vegetarianism, aren’t interested, even worse, think you do know and then get it totally wrong, just, STFU. That’s why I do occasionally try and explain the concept because lots of people are quite clearly ignorant about the topic – as I once was too.
Having got that one out of the way, onto the fish.
My partner fished in canals in Wales apparently, and sea fished in Australia. Seems he had two supports on the front of his Toyota Land Cruiser so he didn’t even have to hold the rods.
There endeth the fishing story and moving onto the cooking.
Where I lived the main fish was haddock. We were bang in the middle of the country about 70 miles each way to the sea. But at the time, we lived in an industrial area, and fresh fish was regularly shipped to our local fish markets as people had enough money to pay for decent fish.
We had a fish and chip shop right next to our house, well, at the top of our drive to be pedantic. A couple of hundred yards down the street, there was another one. Fish and chips were big business in our area. Haddock was the norm, if you wanted that tasteless insipid fish called cod, you had to ask for it.
Before my time, my grandparents ran a fish and chip shop in a local bus station. It goes without saying that my mother could cook fish and chips to perfection.
So much so, that on Saturday nights after finishing work, she would be chained to the cooker, battering, frying and dishing up for my dad and I while she toiled away at the chip pan fryer.
Finally, when we had totally eaten half the North Sea supply of haddock between us, she would sit down and eat the last one or two remaining pieces of fish.
Despite my heritage, along with Yorkshire pudding, I’ve never cooked battered fish. Or plaice in breadcrumbs, which was another favourite. My father and I would fight over the pieces with the roe. Apparently lots of people didn’t want that – cost the same money as the fish by weight, but we loved the crispy crunchy texture and fishy flavour.
My favourite fish though, were halibut and salmon, cooked plainly, usually gently grilled with lemon juice and butter. Rainbow trout came quickly behind in the top rankings for delicious fish.
While my father claimed not to like fish that much (not that he ever left any), my mother and I both loved it. Her favourite was Dover sole, and again, we would just have it cooked plainly with, maybe, parsley butter.
When she started doing her fancy cooking with the 4/6 weekly Cordon Bleu Cookery Club magazines, we ventured into new waters.
Sole Georgette, which as I vaguely remember was fillets of sole, poached, and then completed with a prawn bechamel sauce, was stuffed in a jacket potato. This, I might add, was a fish course. It went down exceedingly well with my father’s masonic dinner party friends.
More simply – and cheaply – if we weren’t eating fish and chips on a Saturday evening we would have haddock with prawn and mushroom sauce. Add fillets of haddock to buttered oven dish, sprinkle with lemon juice and ground black pepper, scatter prawns and mushrooms on top, and add white/cheese sauce, and top with cheese. Serve with mashed potatoes. Probably similar to what seems to be called ocean pie these days.
And then there were the smoked fishes. Smoked salmon (of which we ate lots), smoked mackerel, smoked trout, and kippers (didn’t have too many of those).
Over at EllaDee’s, I noticed one of the commenters mentioned frozen fish. It never happened in our house. I suppose it was around, but we always bought fresh. Not only did we have a superb fish and game merchant in town, the market also had about ten fish stalls.
We did resort to tinned salmon however. Usually when my paternal grandmother came around for tea, John West of course, and only ever the red salmon and not the inferior pink variety. [Tuna was not a word used in my home.] The red salmon was invariably added to brown bread sandwiches, with peeled cucumber, and the crusts cut off the bread. I quite liked those I have to say. Always a good reason for Nana to come round really, just to get yummy sandwiches.
I did eat tuna in the end, once I met my partner. In fact, we managed to buy fresh tuna and shark steak too from Waitrose when we lived in the London commuter belt.
When you decide to become vegetarian, there are the inevitable conversations about which food do you miss? It’s not that you want to eat it, but you sort of aimlessly consider which was your favourite food in a past life. Mine was the fish, halibut and salmon to be precise.
In fact, the last time I ‘transgressed’ as a vegetarian was when I ate fish in Corfu. We’d gone for an excellent walk along the beach, and got totally lost at lunchtime. We were struggling to find our way out of a town and eventually found a road out, although, who knew in which direction.
Happily wandering down the road, we were offered a lift by a Greek guy. We were puzzled when he spoke to us in German and we explained we were English. The relief shone on his face. He didn’t really want to give a lift to Germans, but he had done anyway because he was a nice person. On turning out to be English, we promptly got taken back to the family Sunday lunch. There were millions of them there.
Most of them had eaten, but we were given feta cheese, black olives, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, the usual Greek salad. Phew, that was good, we didn’t have to say ‘we are vegetarian’ in Greek, one of my few pat phrases.
Next, the fish and the lamb turned up. Oh shit! He ate the lamb, I ate the fish. It was too late to say ‘eimai hortofagos’.
And did I enjoy the fish, dear reader? No.
For those of you who didn’t read my earlier post about not eating fish, here it is.