This is my take on Fish ‘n’ Chips, less messy, fast, easy, tasty, healthy. Monkfish, oven roasted wedges, crispy pancetta and cream of garden peas… Let’s go:
September 1991 After two months spent on the side of a mountain in Glenveagh National Park, I decided to enjoy a couple of weeks off, around Donegal town before heading back to Brittany; many long walks around Lough Eske , its abandoned castle, native oaks and mountain ashes. We didn’t drive. One of my friends suggested to hitchhike to Killybegs, Fishing Harbour few miles west of the town. I like fishing harbours, for some strange reason, the smell of marine gasoil mixed with the smell of rotting fish has a certain appeal. Or is it the screaming swarms of cheeky Herring Gulls? Lorient, St-Guénolé, Galway or Howth, no matter how big or small they might be, the atmosphere surrounding them is always the same; dressed with rich colours, fumes, sadness and excitement, noise… Life, purring Diesel engines… Superstition… What’s not to like really?
I was sitting at my desk at home yesterday, trying to send a few emails, get some inspiration by playing music while staring through the sash window at the swaying Crocosmia. My attention got caught when I noticed a little blue box, containing some neatly sharpened coloured pencils my nieces and nephews enjoy drawing with. As I was bored, I stuck my nose in it, expecting a flash back memory that didn’t disappoint; back to school and my pencil case, the last week of bliss before being sent to the pillory. As a form of acceptance, the last few days of freedom were quite pleasant, mostly foraging blackberries, with our neighbours and friends. The pain of lacerated limbs was soon to be healed and forgotten by my mother’s legendary “slurpy special” , straight from the pot, soon to be devoured by a small army of stained faces; the last meal for the condemned scallywags we were. As I was trying to reconnect with these delicious berries, nature sometimes gives so generously, I imagined them as a savoury ingredient, definitely with fresh goat’s cheese, a great companion to a pork filet roast … But I had another plan this time!
Choosing a bohemian life, I must say, didn’t come without its challenges. Like La Fontaine’s Fables, full of wit, wisdom, “I told you so” and other Jiminy Cricket malarkey, the moral of one of his stories started to sink in. Shortly after finishing the academic machine, I had decided to dedicate my recently free life to pure troubadourism, shared between traditional music one day to rock’n’roll the other. My friend, somewhat wiser, entered bravely the hard working world of restaurants kitchens to become a “Master Crepier” which is basically the black belt of pan cake making in Brittany… Seriously.
The story depicted in Mr De La Fontaine’s bestiary was the one of an Ant and a Cigale (or cicada, cricket like), that incredible insect that colours the musical landscape of Provence and Southern regions of France. The tale depicts the life of a hard working ant and a bohemian “Cigale”. One is prepared for the winter, making good provisions of the summer’s generosity, the other spent it singing and gallivanting… With a monthly income of £200 then, I had to be clever when it came to feed myself; in case you haven’t come to the punch line yet, I was the Cigale in that twisted yarn…