ow to fall in love with Sardines once again?
Let me tell you a little Cornish Story. Imagine it is a hundred years ago; 5 o’clock in the morning in the littlefishing village of Mevagissey. Mevagissey is a nice sleepy village about 5-10 miles from here everyone is inbed. Suddenly the night watchman or hewer (the person responsible for spotting shoals of sardines) sees ashoal of shiny “silver darlings” in the shallow waters of the sea and he is excited! He shouts Hevva! Hevva! And everyone who was in bed; involved in working on the land, or in the mines just gets up and runs towards thebay. Within an hour or two the whole bay has turned into a neat tiny social enterprise. What’s happening is inthose days we didn’t have any radar or sophisticated equipment. The Heuer was an actual person who wasresponsible for “sardine spotting”. The village community was responsible to collectively catch the fish, pack thefish and send them all the way to Genoa, Jamaica or France who knows where! By the way sardines in Cornwall are called by a very romantic name of pilchards. Now what is the differencebetween a pilchard and a sardine? Pilchard is a slightly grown Sardine. I asked someone and they said “Whendoes a boy turn into a man! When does a pilchard turn into a sardine?” Sadly the last sardine or pilchard processing factory closes in 1985. Why was that? One of the major reasonsfor that was the lack of fashion, lack of information. By then there was a lot of super information coming theconsumers way by then sardines had become “the not so famous fish”. People started hating everything aboutit.
Possibly it was too oily or possibly it had too many bones. Possibly they didn’t to fiddle with too much fish preparationthey wanted a convenience food.
In common with the other talks there was a lack of information, lack of presentation, lack of status. Food has become too convenient.So five years back when I moved down to Cornwall - I come from humble Indian origins and people call me thefirst and only living Indian Cornishman in Cornwall. So I came here to this beautiful part of the country as a chef and there was nothing stopping me from writing my own menu. Then suddenly I thought there is a gap in themarket, everyone is talking about the big fish the cod, the monk fish, the hake the sea bass. Then I realized whywe do. I had problems with language in the earlier part of my career. I was working in Saudi Arabia a staunchly Muslimcountry to cook Italian food as an Indian and didn’t understand the language! Anyway coming to England waseasy as
I could speak the language as everyone else - Shakespearian English and I could get along with this. Iwon’t say that fish and chips is the National Dish because curry is the national dish in Britain. If you have somealcohol on a Friday and you need something to kill it curry is the best. Second most popular is no longer theroast but Fish and Chips and it is very easy when you are confused or in the middle of a conversation to say codC.O.D. That is why we the consumers have a lot of power making cod endangered. My concern about thepolitics of food, we have a term for people who talk about the provenance of food but do not know and we call ita career with nothing look at Michael Pollen they just push the problem towards you. They write many books.The solution lies in the hands of this humble cook and many others like me. I finally got to write the menu. SoOk let’s put pilchards back on the menu – how about that? I had sardines on as they would have cooked 100years back
Scowl – that’s a Cornish term. You just barbeque them. You just put some sea salt on top of thesardine bang it onto the grill and eat it between two slices of bread. The best fast
food you can have while enjoying