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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fish at home and abroad

Dining on cod in Rye

One of the iconic culinary experiences of England must surely be Fish and Chips.  In several episodes of the “Lovejoy” TV series, the title character buys fish in newspaper and walks outside the shop to eat it.  In the latest novel by Jonathan Gash, Faces in the Pool, Lovejoy again extolls the virtues of fish in newspaper, this time taking it to his friend’s house in Manchester, where the two share it with mugs of hot tea.  Before we traveled there, I was curious as to how England fish compared to what we ate in the United States.  So far, on both our travels there, we’ve been able to sample it several times. 

Last year, we walked up to the counter of a restaurant and looked at the menu posted on the wall.  They offered several types of fish.  I tried asking the staff what the different varieties tasted like, but their attempts at answering me only led to deeper confusion.  A large gentleman leaned over the counter.  “Are you from America?” he asked with a gruff voice.  “Yes,” I answered.  He asked what kind of fish we were used to.  As neither of us are big fish eaters, all I could tell him was that we purchased it in the frozen section, or ate it at Long John Silvers.  

When I told him we planned to eat in the restaurant, he waved us inside.  “Just sit down wherever you like," he said in his deep voice, "and tell the waiter that I’m bringing you two nice pieces of cod.”  This, of course, wasn’t enough information for the waiter, and led to more confusion.  Nevertheless, the waiter eventually brought us two small portions of cod far larger than we usually received at home.    We found the flavor mild and pleasant, and bought cod and chips once more during that vacation.

Dining on haddock in Wales

This year, we shared an order of cod and chips one evening in Holmfirth, but it wasn’t worth writing home about.  Literally.  It wasn’t until we reached Wales, toward the end of our vacation, that we had another great fish experience.  With a greater experience of fish (Ha!), I asked how the different varieties they served compared with cod.  Again, their attempts at answers only led to greater confusion.  So Linda opted for cod, while I decided to try the haddock.  I found that I enjoyed the flavor of haddock more than cod, which, believe it or not, reminded me of white-meat chicken.  We enjoyed our dinner outside, on one of the benches lining the restaurant, and under the careful scrutiny of the sea gulls.

Perhaps it’s my imagination, but since we’ve returned from England this year, we’ve traveled to Long John Silvers more than usual.  While some may claim it’s not the greatest fried fish ever, we enjoy the way they serve (what I’ve since learned is) Alaskan Pollock.  It’s as if traveling to England, and eating those different kinds of fish, have given us a greater appreciation of what we have locally.  Visiting Long John Silvers is no easy task: the nearest restaurant, a combination Long John Silvers & Kentucky Fried Chicken, involves a forty-five minute drive each way.  Yet, it’s something we love, and whether others share our preferences or not, we’re willing to sacrifice the time and expense to travel there.  Each meal thus becomes an event, a reminder of those experiences in England with cod and haddock, as well as a celebration of the Alaskan pollock we apparently love best. 

Dining on pollock back home.

By the way, did I mention the fried clams, which, while not unique to Long John Silvers in the United States, we’ve yet to find served in England?

Dragon Dave

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