3044 EV Rotterdam
The fish auction
(source: cookbook Herman Nearby)
‘A cookbook is mainly about preparing and enjoying food. Still, you can’t get around the cold, harsh truth when faced with the choice in products. We’re not going to talk about it. Not yet. Good news comes first. This chapter contains recipes for easily prepared dishes at home with fatty fish. Fatty fish has a lot of flavour, is chockfull of healthy fatty acids, and has not yet been overfished.’ ‘This has been the fun part, now for the bad news. Rather a fat mackerel than surimi off a floating factory that catches whole shoals of fish with a mile-long trawl. After the catch, they stuff the fish with preservatives and other muck to make beefed up surimi, which many operators on shore will probably sell as crab. The result: the seas become emptier and the customers are misled. Human beings don’t need fodder like that, right? So, what’s surimi got to do with fatty fish? In addition to pollack and hoki, they also suck in blue mackerel. Selling fatty fish as crab, it has already come to this.’ ‘Which brings us back to the good news. There are alternatives for surimi. Crab, perhaps? Get a readily available, whole brown crab, mix it in a salad, with shortly blanched bits of shallot, some chopped parsley, homemade mayonnaise, lemon juice, few leafs of romaine lettuce, and salt and pepper.
The basis of this salad is, of course, the live brown crab. Preferably, you should buy a bulky female and check if she is still alive and kicking. Surimi can’t beat that.’ ‘Then a gloomy message. That grey puddle just outside the house, the North sea. Well, people were a bit too eager to get fish out of there. This chapter should be a Nearby story. But being dependent upon the supply of anglers who catch fatty fish from the sea in an ecologically responsible way at Scheveningen or IJmuiden, that just doesn’t cut it. We will have to look for it elsewhere.’ ‘The positive side of this story is that mackerel mostly comes from the non-overfished waters from the Atlantic Ocean or from English fishermen who catch mackerel responsibly near the Southern shores of England. Sardines and salmon have to travel far, the North Sea is too cold for sardines – for now. The fish is advancing, just like the striped red mullet and the anchovy. Sardines are caught by fishermen in the Atlantic Ocean. The fish has to be a minimum of 11 cm, everything below is undersized. Avoid sardines from the Mediterranean, the plummeting fishery resources there are atrocious. The salmon, also a fatty fish, used to be present in great numbers in rivers like the Rhine. The last was seen there at the end of the fifties. Good salmon now comes from eco-farms, like those near the Shetland Isles. There, the fish grow in large cages in the sea, where they have more room than their cultivated brothers who are kept alive with antibiotics. The Shetlanders are stronger, less susceptible for diseases, and aren’t force-fed that chemical junk. Wild salmon is the best and tastier than most fat, stuffed pigs. You should always buy them when you see them. Like the Yukon River salmon, caught in Alaska by Inuit in the summer. This salmon has proved itself not to be overfished, its deep orange colour and although lacking adipose veins, it is still nice and fat. Which brings us to the last fatty little fish: the anchovy. In the spring, I used to cook the three A’s menu: asparagus, anchovy, and aardbei, Dutch for strawberry. This stuff all came from the Bergen op Zoom region. There is still Berger anchovy sparsely available in May. The fish spawns near Bergen op Zoom. A few fishermen bring them to the market and wholesale trade.
If you can get your hands on a few of them, do it, because you can’t get them fresher or fatter.