Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Getting crabby about my cookery plans

Suddenly – and really rather strangely – I'm aware that while I’ve been thinking about food from my childhood, I have no memories of my mother cooking us fish. Yet I know that, in our time in Mossley at least, she visited the fish stall at the market, once a week or more, or sent my father there to get fish. But try as I might, I can recall none of her fish dishes.

I do remember – and with great love – fish ‘n’ chips from the chippy, which my father would occasionally go and buy and bring home for a Saturday lunch … with proper mushy peas, of course; there were also scraps (the left-over bits of batter) that you could buy for a penny or so a bag from chippies.

Later, I remember family trips to Blackpool and eating in restaurants where I’d almost always pick scampi.

Those things have stuck firmly in my memory – but not my mother’s fish dishes. And in being incapable of that memory, I’m also incapable of knowing exactly why that should be the case.

I do know that we never had any shellfish. Perhaps rather surprisingly under all the circumstances, I was quite prepared to try new things from early on in my adult life.

Well before the dawn of my ‘foodie period’, I’d eaten – and enjoyed – squid, mussels (before they seemed to have decided to disagree with me) and eel; foods that were really rather ‘exotic’.

At polytechnic in Leicester for a year, I discovered crab: you could buy it quite cheaply, ready cooked, from the market in the city centre.

I’d take it back to the halls and use a small hammer to break into the shell and liberate the meat. Then, as far as I can remember (because I long ago lost the un-illustrated Penguin cookery book that I got the recipe from), I’d warm it through with butter and some lemon juice and eat it on toast.

The book, incidentally, had been one of those great ideas of my mother’s: ‘I haven’t taught you anything much about cooking and I even stopped you doing cookery at school, so here’s a book of recipes now that you’ll have to cook for yourself’.

The hammer was my father’s idea of something practical that I should have. It’s still in the toolbox, if a tad bent.

Then today came reminders of crab: first Oliver Thring’s article in the Guardian and the associated piece about how to prepare and dress crab. Further recipes are apparently to follow.

Now my plans for the weekend have been blown right open: Never mind trashy retro food, crab has to be on the menu – particularly as The Other Half doesn’t really eat shellfish.

And to further complicate things, I then found this – which might be 'hard' by the standards of UKTVFood, but sounds relatively easy to me. And rather delicious. And if I'm going to buy a nice big crab, then it's going to do me more than one meal.

But there we are – at present!

And as if that were not making my foodie life complicated enough, my colleagues seem to have decided that I’m not doing enough to defend public services by making chocolate things to keep their spirits up!

Thank goodness there's marzipan in the house!

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