The Weasel: The catch of the day

Share
Related Topics

The deep-seated urge to convert tastes on the palate and odours on the nose into words on the page, as exemplified by the special issue you’re holding, has generated some of the most impressive passages of description in the English language. I am a great fan of the American wine writer Robert Parker, or at any rate his nose, since this is the organ responsible for detecting the following wafts eddying from Château Talbot ’86: “sweet crème de cassis, intermixed with freshly ground pepper, melted road tar, herbes de Provence and beef blood”.

On this side of the Atlantic,whisky guru Jim Murray boasts a schnoz of equal or possibly even greater sensitivity. In the bouquet of Ardbeg 21 Years Old, he spots a whole scenario: “marmalade on slightly burnt toast while in the background a peat fire smoulders and salt melts on porridge.”(Since the melting point of salt is 801C, I hope Mr Murray allowed his porridge to cool before eating.) Recently, I came across a culinary reference work that rivals Messrs Parker and Murray for inventive analogies. What type of comestible is being described here? A) “The aroma has an earthy intensity like fallen autumn leaves.”B) “The flesh [has] notes of the burnt, crispy edges of the white of fried egg and the dark meat of a chicken.”C) “The burnt electric, filament smell of the underside of a Scalextric car that’s just been raced along the track.”D) The flavour has “notes of salted caramel and the mild acidity of the flesh of a green apple that has browned on exposure to the air.” Hands up all those whose minds drifted to the seaside. The descriptions can all be found in Young’s Lexicon of Fish (£5 including p&p from www.youngsseafood.uk). They were respectively inspired by organic farmed salmon, wild gilthead bream, sailfish and brown shrimp. Who would have thought that crayfish smells of “chicken stock and the lightly savoury smell of peeled button mushrooms”(completely different from unpeeled button mushrooms, of course) or that the taste of lemon sole has “underlying oaty biscuit notes and a suggestion of sherrylike sweetness”? Among other surprising perceptions in this booklet,we learn that Greenland halibut tastes “a little like milk pudding”, ray has “a suggestion of blanched asparagus with the depth of flavour of pork knuckle”,while the flavour of farmed turbot is “similar to gummy milk bottle sweets”. The Scalextric aroma of sailfish hints at a peculiarity of the Lexicon’s tasting team: Rob, Serge, Simon, Guy and Mitch. The sensory organs applied to the creatures of the deep were entirely male.



Yet psychologists point out “women’s superiority at identifying and detecting odours at even very small concentrations”. (Any husband could have told you that.) In order to remedy this omission, I asked Young’s if they would kindly supply a range of fish for evaluation by Mrs W. The resulting delivery, freighted from Grimsby, was rather surprising in its generosity. I was expecting sufficient fish for a plate of assorted sashimi. What I got was enough to stock a small fishmonger. After an extensive session of gutting and scaling (we’re still finding the red mullet scales that whizzed round the kitchen like machine-gun bullets),we got down to our dégustation. The illex squid went down very well with my tasting panel.“Mmm. It’s fantastic!” “And the flavour?” “Like eating lardo. It just melts in the mouth.”Perhaps the cured Italian fat isn’t too far from the conclusion reached by the Lexicon lads: “Pistachio with a hint of the mild lactic tang of fresh cream.” The mackerel was equally appealing to Mrs W.“It’s lovely.” “But what does it taste of?” “It’s very good.”Annoyingly,my tasting panel adhered to the maxim that all comparisons are odious. “Do you get ‘a low-key coal-dust or driftwood aftertaste’?”

“Yes, I suppose so.” By this stage, the appeal of fish was beginning to wear off for my tasting panel. “It’s amazing how that fish smell spreads. It’s gone upstairs.”

“What do you think of the red mullet?” “Big flakes. The texture’s a bit like chicken. It’s quite a filling fish, isn’t it?”In my kindly way, I decided to postpone tasting of the

yellowfin tuna steaks, the vast chunk of swordfish and the huge,whole turbot, also supplied by Young’s, until the following day. “But what does red mullet taste of?” “A bit iodiney. There’s a taste of the sea. It’s very seasidey.” It may seem obvious that a fish, particularly one spanking fresh from Grimsby, should taste of the sea, but Mrs W’s reaction was astonishingly close to the Lexicon, which notes “iodine freshness of

seaweed and salt spray”in the flavour of red mullet and a texture of “clearly defined flakes,which are smooth and dense, like chicken oysters”. Probably the Lexicon is spot on about the sailfish’s bouquet of Scalextric as well, but I wouldn’t know for sure. I was more of a model-railway man myself.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

 

Naturism criminalised: Why not being able to bare all is a bummer

Simon Usborne
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on