Friday, November 03, 2006

The salmon of doubt

Fucking dithering Highland bastards have left me feeling like a right cunt, having finally admitted that there will not, after all, be three prime wild salmon frozen and waiting for me and George to scale, fillet and roast and serve as the first of three themed courses to a table of 40 at my sister’s wedding in 4 weeks’ time. Two nights ago, the pair of us sat here arriving at a menu.

A budget of £150 EXCLUDING the salmon and venison. A five course meal at three pounds per head that will be 10 times better than the hotel-catering equivalent for 10 times the price. Yes, that means an overall improvement of a factor of 100. Of course, most of the reason for this absurd differential is that the cooks, namely me and George, come for free and that the proceeds don’t need t cover the family holidays of a fat absentee hotelier. You might think, therefore, that the people getting this deal of the century would go out of their way to make sure your every catering need is, well, catered for.

How wrong you could be. For one, we are dealing with the Highlands here – where arrangements are somewhat more laid back and empty promises rue the day. For two, it’s only their brother, so it doesn’t matter that much. “Oh don’t worry about the food; the salmon is in the freezer and the venison is running around somewhere with my name on it.” But they don’t care because they don’t cook. They don’t realize that it takes time to plan a sit-down meal for 40 on a budget of £150. They don’t realize that it is better to hear a flat “No” than it is to find out after 6 months of expectation that in fact none of the food you have been picturing prepped and later propped up by a few heat lamps probably never existed in the first place.

That plan had been hatched a few days ago, on Monday, when George turned up here laden with goodies from Cornwall to thrash out the menu and shopping list. It hadn’t got off to a great start anyway, as I was not very welcoming of his ideas for brown-bread ice cream or elaborate ways to cut dauphinoise. He has never made brown-bread ice cream, for example, and my trust in his ability to pull anything at all off is still suffering badly from out hellish kitchen-building experience here last month. But by the time we were tucking into a bowl of spicy pumpkin and coconut soup and a fat pasty served with nothing but a dollop of sweet, salty, vinegary ketchup we had arrived at a menu solution. It felt right to eat this food, as talking about how we were going to prepare the wedding feast had put me right off the idea.

The course in question was going to be a perfectly trimmed fillet of wild salmon from the river 100m across the road from where the guests will be sat. It was to be perched atop a soft pile of confit tomatoes, surrounded with a drizzle of parsley oil and topped with a twist of fresh herb salad. Difficult, but not impossible, to fuck up, and certainly a lot of time to prepare the fish. But by fuck, a simple way to blow people away and, moreover, to get as far away as possible from the sorry sitting-on-the-table-waiting plate of cold pate on toast or perhaps a small goats cheese and caramelized onion tart or whatever served next to a few bitter salad leaves and a boresamic reduction of some fucking sort or other. I know where I am with salmon.

But it was all in vain, as less than 24 hours later I was listening to the painful sound of family members I know, love and respect stumbling over pathetic excuses to the negative as to why the salmon was off. Feuds, delinquency and a total inability to view life from anyone else’s viewpoint but their own left us empty fucking handed.

But all is not lost, as it turns out that there is a small freezerful of the smoked variety. Now all we have to do is find a way to serve it hot. 7lb of best wild smoked salmon, and I can't quite bring myself to get excited about it. Fucking cunts. Fucking dithering Highland cunts man.

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