We need to get selfish with our shellfish
Why? For one simple fact: The majority of shellfish caught here is sold abroad and then, amazingly, imported back to us. Not necessarily most of it, but some might say the best of it.
For an island nation, our love of all things seafood is a strange one; being traditionally limited to a slab of battered cod on the way home from work, salmon for a special dinner and prawns for special occasions. Cod cheeks and monkfish tails? Forget it. We’re still disastrously unadventurous.
The average consumers’ tastes seem to be restricted to a lobster, or brown crab. The rest of it is imported from abroad – crayfish from China, cockles from Holland, and mussels from New Zealand – as our suppliers can’t keep up with demand for these particular favourites, while they have a surplus of whelks and winkles. What’s wrong with us?
What is termed unusual by us is sent abroad as there, people’s palates are all-embracing. They eat with their taste buds, whereas the British go on what they see. And if what we see isn’t something we can pick up with a fork and eat in a dash, forget it. A Spanish man will spend three hours picking a spider crab with a toothpick. We’d just opt for a fish finger sandwich.
Palates aside, I think there’s simply an insane a stigma around shellfish in the UK. We’ve yet to embrace the idea of sucking the meat from a lobster claw or spreading the pate-like head meat from a langoustine on toast, French-style. Elsewhere in the world, people can’t get enough of our home-grown shellfish. Most whelks caught on our south coast are sent to adoring diners in Korea. I’ve enjoyed them fresh from the sea, boiled with water and herbs for 50 minutes; then baked with garlic butter, or eaten with mayonnaise. Beautiful, and not a drop of vinegar in sight.
And razor clams – prized (rightly so) on the continent. The tubular beauties have a meaty, scallop-like texture, are great on a barbecue, and cost far less then their fan-shaped friends.
People need to begin to eat intelligently, and without subjectivity. Make time for langoustines, whelks, winkles, limpets and all of their myriad compatriots. And in doing so, you’ll be helping to revive our soundly mistreated and struggling fisheries industries.
Eat British Gentle Readers. We’ve achieved Brexit – now let’s reclaim our seafood as well.