Monday 13 May 2013

One of those days

It's not often a day comes along when, after a good, early breakfast, there is nothing left to do but ponder on what to have for lunch. Given a large supply of unusual fish my thoughts turn to methods of preparation. There's a colourful 'tord roquer' in the freezer, a corkwing wrasse, symphodus melops and it begs to be cooked 'a la sal'--baked in salt. There's not enough coarse salt in the cupboard however, and a trip in the car to the shops is anathema to the pleasant, languid mood of the morning.

It doesn't take much thought to arrive at the perfect conclusion: sail down the coast to next town where there's a supermarket near the beach. Strange as it seems to go to sea to buy salt I quickly prepare OB and launch into a flat sea and offshore breeze. I sail large parallel to the beach and lie back with my weight to windward as the inevitable gust powers OB to top speed. The town turns up way too early and I sail out to sea for a few turns on the stiffer wind. The Mestral when blowing moderately and early in the day usually foretells a noon calm and subsequent wind shift to the south west. So as the wind dies I stow the sails and row to the beach, rolling OB up the sand on a fender.

I dig out some flip flops and coins and cross the beach and the busy promenade, through an alley, across a square to the small supermarket where I buy salt, wine, bread and potatoes. I've earned a beer and so I sit down at an aluminium table on the terrace of a near-by bar. I'm half way though the beer when a familiar figure comes down the street. It's skipper MacGyver out to buy a roast chicken for Sunday lunch. He sits down and we order more beer. He's seen the boat on the beach and is tickled when I tell him I've come shopping. Another fisherman turns up, the shopping story is retold and more beers are ordered.

We could sit here all day but people have wives to get home to and MacGyver still hasn't bought his chicken. The wind has kicked in again, now from the southwest. MacGyver walks a way with me, confessing that although he's spent all his life on the sea, he's never been sailing. He refuses to tread on the sand and watches me prepare the boat from the promenade.

I launch OB, row out a short way, quickly lower the rudder and daggerboard before hoisting the sails. I back the main to turn the boat, the wind catches and we fly large, winging homeward. OB covers the two and half miles in half an hour and soon I'm in the kitchen burying the wrasse in coarse salt, I dig through the snowy layer until I uncover the eye, left bear this glassy orb will turn opaque when the fish is cooked through.

I parboil some potatoes then saute them in olive oil. But I'm having trouble judging if that eye has turned sufficiently pale and eventually err far on the side of caution. By the time I chip the fish out of it's salt crust it is overcooked and drier than I'd like. However, the spirit of the morning pervades and the inexpensive wine I've bought is surprisingly good. And as so often happens with food the enjoyment comes from the situation and the story that accompanies it. Overcooked, over-salty, bony corkwing wrasse never tasted so good.