Monday, November 26, 2012

Pumpkins and kippers for soup, and a bombastic bloater.

Got a couple of collages done for Alphabet Soup today.  I think I'm probably on course to get perhaps a half-dozen completed, with ideas for the rest which might or might not come to fruition once the deadline heat is off.

So here is P for pumpkin:

That thing in the middle of the right-hand pumpkin flower is a messed-up scribble, which I meant to do something to correct but forgot to.  But the good thing about this technique is you can stick stuff on top!  So I think I'll make it a bumble bee.

The next one proved to be somewhat topical:

Kippers.  I have mixed feelings about these smoked members of the herring tribe, indeed about most smoked fish really. We used to get them in England that were boil-in-the-bag, from a man with a van who came round.  His stuff was so expensive the kippers were all we could really bring ourselves to buy, and I know that b-i-t-b is shameful and Not Proper Food but these were just so good and so easy and didn't stink the place out.   Now I often swear I will not buy kippers here again, but then Tom looks at them with such longing I give in, knowing the ordeal I have in store in the preparation of them, often for a dry, salty, disappointing result.  Those vacuum packed Breton smoked herrings in oil are not much better, but at least you don't have to wrestle with fins and bones and stuff, and they don't smell quite so bad.

So when we were at a low ebb in the supermarket the other day and my dear one's eyes fell upon a bloater, or un bouffi, as it is known hereabouts in pleasingly transparent translation (and as an adjective it seems that also means 'bombastic' according to the dictionary), instead of saying 'put it down it's disgusting' as I might have had I been feeling stronger, I allowed him to put it in the trolley.

I have never actually handled a bloater before; it took me a couple of days, until today, to square up to the thing and only then did I realise it was whole, all it's innards still contained within its plump form - hence its puffiness and its name, I suppose.  Fortunately it was in a sealed pack and well within it's eat-by date, as the well-documented 'gaminess' and it's bloating tendencies might have been really unmanageable.  I was by this time feeling slightly stronger and less self-sacrificing, and picking over it's smoky, slimy guts, jaundiced eyes, intact gills and hairy bones I felt little compunction in saying that 'I am only putting myself through this because I love you and because I'm still feeling mortified about smashing up the car, so yes I am largely doing it out of guilt.' He ventured to say he might not in fact enjoy it much under those terms but I said he'd bloody better do so.

But then something happened when I looked at the generous and firm portion of roe that emerged from it, which one source described as the cook's treat, I couldn't help myself thinking, and saying aloud: 'That looks good!'.  The bronze, gold and silver skin with its delicate criss-cross patterning was also rather exquisite, and by the time I'd cleaned up the fillets and put them, with the roe, under the grill, and having eaten a good portion of Jean-Paul's crisp and cleansing scarole salad, I was coming round to the idea that I might have some after all.

It really was very good indeed, much better than any kippers we've had here, and it was very inexpensive.  The roe was saltier than the flesh, but spread on a piece of bread was very interesting too.  So I will buy them again, now I know what I'm letting myself in for, or else find a way to persuade Tom that dissecting and preparing a bloater for consumption is a project that he really needs to engage with for his moral, intellectual and spiritual betterment.

(Kedgeree is also a good smoked fish option, and also begins with a 'K'. Kippers don't in fact make one's breath smell, so kissing is not completely out of the question.)


Roderick Robinson said...

"smoky, slimy guts, jaundiced eyes, intact gills and hairy bones".

Hard to work that into a Valentine but I suppose there's now no need. You've gone public, a million eyes have seen it, and a million-divided-by-two voices would be raised in protest if Tom wasn't living up to his obligations.

VR's equivalent is to open a tin of butter beans every so often and to avert her eyes as I consume them with my dinner. When much younger our grandson Ian was interested when VR referred to this sacrificial act and asked what butter beans were. VR described them and Ian's eyes lit up in recognition: "Oh you mean those beans that are full of dry."

I'd be interested to hear of Tom's reciprocity in this matter but perhaps that's caddish of me.

Fire Bird said...

'thou shalt have a bloater when the boat comes in' in suitably North-eastern accent is rumbling round my head as I laugh... glad it was worth the trials

Lucy said...

Thank you both, these two comments have quite made my day.

Robbie - funny you should mention butter beans, they are among our favourites. One of the first meals Tom ever prepared for me was chicken Kievs, spinach and butter beans. I was smitten. The first two items cannot very easily be procured here; I have learned to make my own chicken Kievs (the originals were M&S), and it is also one of those acts of devotion but a much pleasanter one than handling kippers. They are tricky things; if the garlic butter leaks out in the pan they are spoiled - I've more or less cracked this by just sealing them quickly in the pan then transferring them to the small fan oven, so if it leaks out in the dish there it doesn't matter so much. The oiliness of the garlic butter and moistness of the spinach offsets the feculent dryness of the beans, a quality I have come to value. Occasionally one comes across these in jars, as 'haricots blancs de Judion' and very good they are too, or else there are sometimes Greek or Antillaise versions to be found in tins. Or one can buy the dried version, when they are 'de Soissons' and cook them oneself. Along with marrowfat peas they are something we miss and go out of our way to procure when we can.

Tom does his share of unpleasant duties, don't worry. I think collecting and disposing of the dog poo, an area in which he more than pulls his weight, probably merits the odd kipper! (Though not in too close proximity...)

FB - oh how could I forget! I can hear you singing it now; it was one of those things you could always make me laugh uncontrollably with, wherever we were.

Unknown said...

Neither kippers not kedgeree would deter me, if I wanted to, from kissing anyone,

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

First things first, your Alphabet Soupers are magnificent. I adore the collaged effect, partially because it reminds me of the much-loved 'cut-out' books of my childhood. An entirely gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing solution to what you wrote of in an earlier post about finding ways to utilise drawings made on different pieces of paper. Your compositional arrangements are wonderful satisfactory, carrying the eye round and round both images. I delight in each element. I particularly like the puckered-up-lips-for-kissing!

You wrote here too of your dissatisfaction with your handwriting/lettering, and yet in these it works perfectly, with that sense of the hand-lettered labels I used to so love in the old-fashioned museums of my childhood, that now can only be found in that fabulous survival, the Pitt Rivers in Oxford. I love the brown background that smacks of the exercise book, and the black one that like the perfect little black cocktail dress, is tres chic! Well done Lucy. These have made me smile a LOT!!!

Re gutting. I love squid. I love it in nearly all its forms. But preparing fresh squid from scratch I find to be almost unendurable. I screw my face up and close my eyes. And no matter how much I love the taste of it on the plate, whether deliciously succulent inside a crispy tempura batter or smokey and sweet from the ridged-grill pan, I cannot remove from my mind the memory of the noxious mess awaiting me in the steel sink, that must be plated and carried out to the garden for disposal. At the cottage I've been known to throw the remains to the seagulls, but even that makes my toes curl, especially when the gusting sea-wind throws it back playfully into my hair. (The 'attacked by alien spawn from outer space' scenario!) I am an absolute wimp when it comes to squid entrails.