Not postmen, fishermen

I’ve heard tell that solicitors are akin to postmen, delivering up mail so that others can do something useful with it. This invites an alternative and protracted analogy.

Like you, when I tuck into a carefully crafted Dover Sole with something dry and chilled in a glass to one side, I think about little other than the flourish with which it is presented. Top marks to the chef!

Pause for a moment though and you begin to realise realise the combined effort in bringing it to your plate. Some poor sod has saved up to buy a trawler. He or she employs a crew and between them they pitch about on the ocean at great expense, unsure what the return will be. A few missed opportunities and people get laid off. It’s a risky business too, so insurance premiums are high. There are rules and regulations about quotas and the price of fish fluctuates, making it difficult to guarantee a return.

Now fish arrive in all shapes and sizes. Much of it will carry no financial reward at all and most of it will certainly not be of any interest to the Michelin-starred chef in central London. The fisherman therefore spends a lot of his time sorting through it all and catching lots of fish in the hope that a tiny proportion of it will please the restaurateur.

Fish goes off. If you don’t look after it properly you will lose it and so a complex supply chain is required to keep it in a happy state. All of this takes skill, experience, logistical know-how and money. Lots of money.

Finally it arrives at the restaurant. Here, a competent chef will transform good ingredients into something fantastic. With the right touch, the audience will swallow it whole. As a matter of common sense, a poor chef can ruin a perfectly good fish.

All of these elements are important. I love to watch a master chef at work as much as anyone else. It is a thing to behold when decent raw materials become delicacies. But let’s not bash the fisherman, eh? They’ve got a tough enough job as it is and they get little thanks for most of it.

David Osborne
June 2017

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