Holy mackerel?

For a lot of people here in town, Friday is ‘fish day’. Not for religious reasons (almost half of the Dutch claim to be non-religious) or because there isn’t a fish shop or fish stand open most days of the week. On Friday there’s a huge fresh produce market in the center of town with, amongst lots of other food sellers, several sellers of fresh sea food.

It’s not just fresh seafood they sell though but also prepared seafood like a variety of fried fish, smoked eel, salted herring, fried mussels or smoked mackerel. Smoked mackerel is very affordable on the Friday market and great food too, especially on a slice of wholemeal bread with finely chopped raw onions and a little bit of mayonaise… yummy!

I’m not the only one in my neighbourhood who likes smoked mackerel. My thieving cat Maria delivers proof of this every Friday night when she deposits the skin and attached head of a smoked mackerel right in the centre of my living room carpet

Now I wouldn’t object as much if Maria brought home the whole mackerel – after all, every little bit helps when you’re on a tight budget – and was willing to share. I do have a problem though with being snarled at while taking the skin away from her and then having to remove the greasy stains from my carpet.

However, today was payback day. This time I brought home the smoked mackerel – a whole one, not just the skin and head. After letting Maria out who claimed to have urgent business elsewhere, I made a great sandwich for myself and shared some of the fish with the other cats. All Maria will find when she gets home is the smell of what she missed out on…

There’s enough smoked mackerel left to make another sandwich tomorrow and IF Maria behaves, she’ll get her share of fish too. But no more mackerel skins on my carpet!

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Apprentice butchers and retired pigs

The supermarket around the corner had another great deal: this week all marinated pork chops 35% off. I like pork chops but I don’t eat them too often. They make a good dinner with veggies and potatoes but I’m not fond enough of potatoes to have them for dinner more than once a week.

Now of course these pork chops were mostly in family size packages of at least six and even with the 35% off that didn’t fit my weekly budget. But they’re smart, these supermarkets: they package undersized pork chops that wouldn’t sell otherwise by two for the singles among us. We may (have to) buy leftovers but by golly, we do get a luxurious two of them on our plate…
So I bought my two small pork chops and took them home.

The first thing I noticed when I wanted to put the chops on the stove was that there were quite a few bone splinters on the meat, hidden by the marinade. Now a good butcher is perfectly capable of cutting chops without a lot of bone splinters so clearly these chops were chopped by an apprentice butcher. The only way to remove all bone splinters was to wash the chops and with that the marinade was gone too. Bummer…

Now normally cooking a pork chop should take no more than 15 – 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cut but these were thin cut chops so 10 minutes should have been more than enough. Unfortunately it took 50 minutes before they were done well enough to be chewable by my elderly teeth. Obviously the pigs had been retired quite a while before they served as practice material for the apprentice butchers. A marinade is often used to make meat leaner but these chops had not been marinated long enough to make a noticeable difference. And after washing the chops there was little to no taste left.

So once again, a bargain went bad on me. In stead of two small but nice pork chops I ended up with two small and tasteless pork chops and a late dinner to boot.

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Shrinking Fish

I like food. Homecooked, Chinese takeaway, delivery pizza, even a burger from the big M place, I chew it all away happily as long as I don’t have to eat the same two days in a row. I hate to be bored. Yes, I do like food and it shows. So a while back I had my blood pressure checked and after asking me whether I had funeral insurance the good doctor ordered me to lose weight and cut the salt. Immediately.
So I change my diet: less takeaway, less saturated fats, less salt, more vegetables and… more fish. Fish has healthy fats and I happen to like fish so I’m cool with that.

So the supermarket around the corner offers two for the price of one of ‘ready for the oven’ fish products of a well-known brand. What the package says (after translation) is “Grilled Fishcuisine” and “mediterranian fish filets marinated in olive oil with rosemary and sage”. Now I’m a bit suspicious of anything called ‘mediterranian’ since pesto stormed the Dutch kitchen a few years ago and you couldn’t buy anything unless it was drowned in pesto – that is, the Dutch version of pesto which has very little resemblance with the real deal. But two for the price of one fits my limited budget so I decide not to be too critical.

After opening one of the packages I’m staring at the two “mediterranian fish filets marinated in olive oil with rosemary and sage” because they’re none too large but then I never agreed with the recommended tiny amount of meat one should consume per day. And, I did save money by getting two for the price of one so I’ll just cook both pieces and have a party! As I mentioned before, I like fish…

After cooking the fish in the oven for 25 minutes following exact instructions, I’m totally dumbfounded. I see a LOT of pale watery sauce and two tiny pieces of fish, less than half the size of before they went into the oven. The fish has shrunk! And it tastes exactly like the pale watery sauce looks: pale and watery. There’s nothing of the promise made by “marinated in olive oil with rosemary and sage”. An authentic Italian recipe? To quote a dear friend of mine: I don’t think so!

I wonder, do cooks who work for food manufaturers ever cook their own end products following their own instructions? I doubt it. And they can’t be real cooks either, no self respecting cook would want to be associated with a disgusting product like this.

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