The ancients produced from fish two extremely strong seasonings, muria and garum.
The first was nothing but the brine of the tunny, or rather the juice which flowed from it when it was salted.
Garum, which was more costly, is much less well known to us. It is believed that it was made by pressing the seasoned entrails of the scomber or mackerel, but if that were so its high price would not be justified. There is reason to believe that it was an imported sauce, perhaps that soy which comes to us from India and which is known to be the result of letting certain fish ferment with mushrooms.
Analytical gastronomy has long tried to determine what effects a fish diet has on an animal economy and the opinion is unanimous that they are strongly sexual and awaken in both sexes the instinct of reproduction.
Once this result was admitted, it was found that there are two causes of it so obvious that they can be understood by anyone: (1) various ways of preparing fish in which the seasonings are plainly excitant, such as with caviar, picled herrings, marinated tunny, salted cod, stockfish and the like; (2) the various essences with which fish is imbued, which are above all inflammable and which are converted into oxygen and turned sour by the process of digestion.
A still profounder analysis has discovered a third and even more active cause of the sexual effects of a fish diet: the presence of phosphorus, which occurs already formed in the milt, and which always appears in decomposition.
I meant to light a fire last night but didn’t get round to it and we were sat down in the kitchen anyway so we wouldn’t have got the benefit.
So as the light goes out of the sky outside the fire is now lit. There is big log on it and a child is sat bang in front taking the full benefit of its heat.
last night we had four started; beetroot with yogurt, aubergine with yogurt, squid with red wine and tomatoes and clams and beans.
The beetroot was from the garden and for some reason a very pale pink. It was boiled for a couple of hours until soft, peeled and then blitzed in the magimix with a couple of spoons of yogurt, garlic and olive oil. It came out the colour of a particularly vivid blancmange.
But the highlight was the squid. I took a tip from Wards and kept the skin on. I also saved some of the ink for the sauce. After an hour or so’s cooking it was almost black and had a deep dark taste to it.
After the starters we ate monkfish with raisins, vinegar and honey and pearl diver’s rice. Both from Diane Henry’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons.
That was followed by five quinces roasted for a couple of hours in a slow oven served on a bed of whipped cream. We will be having that again.
And to drink there was lashings of good red wine.
Dan was missed.
After clearing the head this morning I went out into the garden. Most of the time was spent raking up leaves and scrubbing out the beds. There is now a big pile in the corner of the garden. Hopefully it will be dry this week and next weekend we can have a bonfire.
Although we are almost into winter there is still some colour in the garden.
The secret of catching mackerel has nothing to do with rubbing horseshit on the hooks or pissing on the feathers, the secret lies in knowing where to catch. If they are there and there’s a hook in the water they will bite at it no matter what it smells or tastes like. The difficulty lies in knowing if they are there. With the water being black like it is you can only see a foot or so through and after that there is nothing to see. There could be a million mackerel down there but all you will see is the colour of the water and that’s it.
There are places they should be at times of the day and go there and get it right then you should come back with a full bucket. But you can go to that sane spot the following day and come back with nothing.
The fish are down there alright but if they are swimming ten foot to the left of where you line is you won’t catch them.
– Clancy O’Conner would tie old CDs to the line so that they’d spin in the water and any bit of light down there would spin off them and attract the fish. Better use down there, he said, than having to listen to the music on the feckin’ things.
– Another man he painted his line a florescent green that he swore he could see twenty five foot down from the surface.
– And there was that man who almost killed himself with electricity and water when he tied a set of Christmas Lights to his line and had them connected to an old car battery he had in his boat.
– You want to tie something bright to the line. I tried it once with sweet wrappers. You know the ones you get in a box of Quality Streets, all purple, green, orange and pink it was. Still caught no feckin’ fish but the chocolates were good.
– A good piece of tweed will do it. Something with a red flash to it. If you have that on the line you’ll have a go.