My next post will be about a recipe making use of very good quality fish, and very expensive fish for that reason, in a way that can feed many people. Not as ambitious as Jesus’s miracle at the Wedding of Cana or anything … but still, very high on the list of good husbandry practice.
The present post, on the other hand, is one about ‘issues’ — caveat emptor. I think the issue is very important otherwise I wouldn’t be wasting my time writing about it … but the reason I want to warn the reader is because, if he or she is anything like me, then he or she turns to blogs as a way to pass a pleasant moment and the last thing we want is to read yet another shrill outcry or impassioned condemnation of a vexing state of affairs. There is plenty enough of that on the TV news, on the radio, in the press, on the internet.
The point I want to make is that fish is expensive, it should be thought of as a delicacy and enjoyed as such. And that most of the fish that is sold at supermarkets does not qualify as ‘good’ fish, either because it has not been sourced in an ethical or sustainable manner or because by the time we get to eat it, it has not always met the highest standards of hygiene or preservation.
Now is the time to stop reading if you are not interested in the issue.
If, instead, you are beginning to wonder … consider the following points:
(1) In a very recent article with journalist Olly Grant, Clarissa Dickson Wright of “Two Fat Ladies” fame dismissed supermarket fish with the following comment:”you might as well drink ammonia”.
(2) Googling around on ammonia and fish, the following is but one of many comments I came across regarding the rubbish kind of fish that we find in supermarkets: “If the frozen fish smells like ammonia it has spoiled. The smell and flavor of a spoiled fish is just like that of the ammonia cleaning product.”
My point: there is always a v. strong smell of ammonia around the so-called fresh fish counter at supermarkets … what does that tell us?
(3) If you have the time and want to take the trouble to find out just how dastardly supermarkets can be over their fishy fish business, take a look at an article that came out in the Daily Mail entitled “The VERY unsavoury truth about your prawn cocktail… and that supposedly fresh fish on the supermarket counter” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1347261/Fresh-fish-The-VERY-unsavoury-truth-prawn-cocktail–supposedly-fresh-fish-supermarket-counter.html)
(4) And in the UK, earlier this year, a bunch of celebrity chefs came together to protest against the dumping of perfectly good fish, encouraging people to diversify their choice of fish (You can see the three programs here on: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/hughs-fish-fight/4od and sign up to the campaign here: http://www.fishfight.net/signed-up/#signup-form.) Marcella Hazan has ‘liked’ this on facebook.
We all have pet likes and pet peeves. My pet like (good food) coincides with its opposite pet peeve (supermarket food). I like good food. Because I think good food puts you in a good mood. Whereas bad food doesn’t even feed you properly and most likely does a lot to undermine your good health.
After reading “Not on the Label” by Felicity Lawrence a few years ago, I decided that supermarkets were NOT the places for me to find ‘good’ food or ethically sourced or put-together food. And so I avoid them as much as I can. The thing that put me off the most concerned those salad leaves that are already washed and displayed in see-though bags. Did you know that they are washed in chlorine, the stuff they use in swimming pools?Lawrence comments, “Some chlorinated compounds are known to be cancer-causing, but there appears to be little research on foods treated with high doses of chlorine, the process having evolved in an ad hoc way.”
I live in a country that, though pullulating with supermarkets as much as anywhere else, still manages to maintain a small number of shopkeepers and greengrocers and butchers. I assure you, it is quite feasible to live without a supermarket. It requires more time to shop, yes. Is it worth it? Yes. It is more expensive to buy outside of the supermarkets. Mmmm. No, not necessarily. But yes: good food, generally, is indeed ‘expensive’. We should respect that.
Good fish – fish that is bought at the fishmonger’s and sourced from the sea and not from a fish farm – is very expensive. I can’t afford to eat it often, and I am not ashamed to admit it. I’d rather eat ‘good’ fish seldom and think of a fish meal as a ‘treat’.
That’s why I look for recipes for making the fish I buy ‘stretch’ as much as I can.