There is many a good tune played on an old fiddle.

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A fish by any other name …

Posted by Big John on September 25, 2007

I am a lover of fish. I don’t mean those in an aquarium or ornamental pond; I mean those that come on a plate, fried in batter or covered in parsley sauce.

I’ll eat just about anything that lives under water, whether it has scales, shell or suckers; one exception being winkles to which I am allergic: proof of which is the unused winkle pin (left) from a wonderful ‘fruits de mer’. It is worth mentioning that my grandmother loved winkles, but eating them always seemed to turn her into an even more miserable old cow than her usual grumpy self.

In the days when my job often meant spending a hard day at the restaurant with clients, I loved to lunch at such over priced locations as the Trattoria dei Pescatori in London’s Charlotte Street, where my expense account got stretched to it’s limits: but I was just as happy (well almost) with a ‘newspaper’ full of fried cod and chips or a dish of jellied eels.

One evening on my recent visit to France, I dined at ‘Le Matisse’ restaurant in the town of Le Touquet and was served a large wing of poached skate served in a sauce of butter and capers. Simple but delicious.

The French call skate ‘raie’ or ray, which I suspect would not be very tempting to most British fish eaters, in the same way that dog fish is far more appetizing when it appears in the ‘chippy’ as ‘rock salmon’.

Now I read that due to the dwindling stocks caused by over fishing of our more popular varieties such as cod, more ‘unattractive’ fish are to be renamed. So watch out for these on your fishmonger’s slab … The ‘orange roughy’, better known as the slimehead … The ‘grenadier’ which sounds a lot nicer than rat-tails … The ‘Torbay sole’, far more appetizing than the witch fish … and it seems the Patagonian toothfish sells a lot better when it’s called the ‘Chilean sea bass’.

Now I live about a mile from Whitstable harbour where fresh fish and other seafood is on sale every day of the week, so I hate to admit to it, but I recently purchased from Sainsbury’s, some fish that I had never heard of before. It was called .. ‘Basa’ .. and tasted pretty good; but it didn’t come from off the Kent coast, in fact it was catfish, and came all the way from the Mekong River Delta …

…   in bloody Vietnam !


5 Responses to “A fish by any other name …”

  1. Ginnie said

    How dare you call your poor sainted Grandmother a “miserable old cow”.!! I’m sure she got that way trying to keep up with her “miserable young twerp” of a grandson!

  2. Betty said

    I used to like orange roughy, but now? Not so much. Thanks a lot, John.

  3. krissnp said

    interesting blog.

  4. Big John said

    It was my poor grandfather who was the ‘sainted’ one Ginnie. How he put up with her I’ll never know, although the fact that they had ten kids might have had something to do with it. 🙂 I never saw her ‘try to keep up with’ anyone apart from other old witches on their broomsticks. 👿

    You can read about my other truly ‘sainted’ grandmother here

  5. Terri said

    I’ve never tried skate. I have a feeling the UK calls fish something different than we do, as I’d not heard of many you mentioned.
    But I DO like winkles…lol Much prefer Moules or Escargot, but winkles are okay.

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