Monday, April 26, 2010

Buying into the dream

I saw swallows yesterday, and the Scottish one disappeared for quite a long time to look at pictures of boats on the internet – both sure signs of approaching summer and a combined desire on our parts to head north till we hit the coast. For my part I’d stay on the coast and admire the view, possibly paddle if it wasn’t too cold, but would venture onto the water for an hour or two if offered the chance of a bit of fishing and a beer. My Scottish friend would be gone until forced (possibly by pirates) to come back, but he wouldn’t say no to a freshly caught and cooked mackerel either so we’re both quite excited by the latest River Cottage handbook – Sea Fishing.

My idea of a successful fishing trip has hitherto had more to do with getting back to land before the beer takes effect than focusing on an actual number of fish caught. Fortunately these sort of adventures normally take place with my father who gets impatient if nothing bites – it ensures a shortish but very pleasant time. Now all that might be about to change.

There are so many things I love about the River Cottage handbooks; they look great, they’re nice to handle, they fit in a pocket, they make for excellent reading (as well as being informative), and of course there’s recipe’s. Best of all they offer a window into the sort of AGA powered, Barbour wrapped idyll that seems so desirable when on a two week summer visit to the Shetlands or a cosy winter visit to the Borders. I will own up to the fact that I took the bread handbook with me on one Borders trip as light holiday reading – access to aforementioned AGA was too good a chance to miss. And yes my friends did mock me, but they also ate the bread with every sign of enjoyment.

It’s nice to daydream; wonderful to imagine a life and job which allowed the time for plenty of baking, jam making, foraging and fishing, but if that was all these books had to offer I wouldn’t be especially tempted. After all who wants to be reminded of the lifestyle they don’t have for 48 weeks of the year? What makes the format work so well (apart from engaging writing) is the mix of practical advice about how to do a thing – like fishing – and what to do with the fish later. I probably won’t be catching a squid anytime soon (ever) but I can purchase a squid...

I particularly like the gutting and filleting section (honestly it is safe to sit next to me on a bus, it really is) the pictures, which are photos (always a good thing), take you through each step in a way that makes it all look eminently do-able. It’s certainly encouraging me to be more adventurous next time I’m on the fish market. ‘Sea Fishing’ also has an excellent collection of charts (who doesn’t like a good chart?), my favourite is for sea fish cooking techniques; fish down one side, techniques down another, I’m geeky enough to be considering photo copying it for the wall, so handy. I also like that it’s not to chef-y, or to specialist, it really makes me want to do the whole action woman thing from hook to pot.

So come the summer – dad I hope your reading this – hopefully a fishing moment will arise, in which case I may be slightly prepared for it, but meantime I have a book full of fish based inspiration which I can take to the market with me (which is more than I can say for the otherwise excellent Leith’s Fish Bible).

Pictures hopefully tomorrow - half an hour trying to up load and I'm off to bed.

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