Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Fisherman's Friend

The Fisherman by P R Francis
Hugh's Fish Fight had me hooked from the start - no bait required. The UK population churned up into a storm of protest at this appalling waste of fish. A feeding frenzy of pledged public support. Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall - champion of chickens and the fisherman's friend, may not be a veggie, but I greatly admire his drive and ingenuity. His passion for food knows no bounds.

To an environmentally aware veggie, Hugh's latest effort to expose the truth about our food came as no surprise. What distressed me more were the scenes of fish gasping their last. Taken from the sea, slowly dying of suffocation. How would you feel deprived of air? Not such a difficult stretch of the imagination is it? Some may dismiss this as veggie over-sentimentality, but the key word here is respect. Fish feel pain. Watch Gordon Ramsay's report on the senseless mutilation of sharks for their fins and I defy you not to well up in tears. An unnecessary and brutal bloodbath of execution. I'm sorry Gordon, but butchering fish is no different to slaughtering animals.

This aside, fellow veggies will be dismayed to learn I am in agreement with Hugh on fishing quotas and “unavoidable” by-catches. Let's stop the nonsense and the once-caught official party line: “it's the wrong type of fish”. Discards are a disgrace, EU bureaucracy gone mad. Dead fish thrown back overboard?? A precious resource wasted all at sea. Where's the logic? I may get annoyed by “fish-eating” vegetarians, but let the people eat fish is my reply.

Friday night fish and chips signifies our Britishness. A national favourite dish. Coming out of the local chippy's with a warm, newspaper-wrapped parcel tucked under your arm. The smell of fat scenting the air. Unwrapped, the melt-in-the-mouth flaky cod and fluffy chips savored bite by bite. Yes, I remember it well. Cod was just the beginning... Holidaying regularly with my Grandparents in a coastal town was a gastronomic adventure. Fish I might not have seen or been persuaded to try at home. Plaice, sardines, haddock, herring and mackerel... I devoured it all, taking note of the sensations that lingered on the tongue.

Becoming veggie later on, naturally my fish days were numbered, but the point I want to get across is – break tradition, the old cod habit. Diversify, try different fish – battered or fried, in a sandwich, with chips, rice or pasta. By doing so you're sustaining your health and the future of fish. Unable to contend with small, fiddly bones? I hate to dampen the mood, but fish have bones, heads and scales, so deal with it! Crunching on soft bones offering a good source of calcium. If you don't like it, don't eat it – simple as that.

While fishy delights for me were over long ago, the fish fight is most certainly not. My parents Coral Wedding Anniversary testing my resolve. What fishy business would fit the bill? Alive or dead? Intact with fins, or pan-fried with a wedge of lemon? The answer to my quandary – fish in a bowl of course. The London Aquarium, the biggest catch of the day. The scale of it is: don't swallow the bait - hook, line and sinker. Join Hugh's fish fight before under the sea turns to full-time fish soup.