Apparently mackerel skies can herald an approaching depression in the same way that the look in my wife’s eyes heralds her approaching depression at the sight of a bag of charcoal in my hand. With our fridge packed with mackerel, purchased on account of their health giving properties and seductively, attractive cheapness, I felt it may be time to cook some of them, and to cook them in sight of their namesakes that were soaring some 30,000 feet above my head, presaging more rain to extinguish what is left of the inappropriately named blazing June. It does not need much insight to notice the hubris in this plan. Cooking on a barbecue in the open air, with the portents of an imminent deluge racing headlong across the grey firmament above the proposed cooking site, is begging the fates to empty a bucketful of depression on the spluttering charcoal below. I laugh in the……. I should point out that this is being written before the attempted fish cookery, so I might not be laughing in the face of adversity a bit later but resorting to the old Navajo trick of kneeling, begging and pleading: pace Woody Allen.
Coinciding with the first suggestion of summer, in the Northern hemisphere, comes the appearance of a seasonal race of people, who claim the ability to cook on open fires as second nature. I am not amongst them, and if truth be told, nor are they. The simple act of lighting the charcoal produces in me a similar reaction to early man’s first finger burning experience: a mixture of wonderment and pain. Charred fencing and scorched earth bear testament to my experiments, with food and fire, in every corner of our small garden. Amongst the drawings, that archaeologists of the future will find on our cave wall, will be one depicting a harried woman bludgeoning an apron wearing septuagenarian who is trying to burn down their cave whilst incinerating a fish.
My earlier manipulations of a chicken’s entrails had foretold success and fine weather. How right those entrails were: henceforth, all chickens beware. In the future I shall not be listening to forecasters, or one in four casters, rather I shall be plunging my arm up a chicken’s fundament to get an accurate prediction of the expected hours of sunshine. While others in smart bars on La Croisette check their Rolex barometers for the coming days weather, I shall be sitting at a nearby table, with my trusty cock in my hand, content in the full knowledge of that which is about to come my way.
Back to the mackerel. The impetus for this atavistic cookery moment was a very good recipe by Tom Parker Bowles which appeared in one of my least favourite places – daytime television. Fish cookery, of the mackerel and sardine school, invariably leaves its olfactory mark on the interior of a small house in the same way that cats can do. The scent, a euphemism if ever there was one, hangs around for too long. The television version showed the cookery taking place in a well ordered kitchen, as is the way with the fairy tale that is television cooking. At one point it was mentioned that this dish would be even better prepared on a barbecue. I looked out of our window and noticed that summer was pouring down in stair rods. Fuck it, I thought, creatively, I shall swim to the shops and maybe catch a mackerel or two on the way. And so it came to pass. The sea parted and the sun shone down on my bowl of burning charcoal. In thanks to the powers that bring sun, I sacrificed a brace of mackerel and they were delicious. Here follows the recipe: