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Sunday, 27 March 2016

Preparing dozens of whole salmon for the Easter rush.

When we are given an amazing half price whole salmon (only £4 a kilo) offer to deal with on the Tesco counters we can expect it to be a busy time ahead. This will mean de-scaling the whopping 3.5 - 4 kilo whole fish (a whole new workout for the arms, wrists, shoulders and legs) and cutting and neatly preparing them to the customer's specifications; examples - two de-boned and trimmed salmon sides; two salmon sides cut into smaller portions and pin boned; steaking down; cubing the lot for endless fish curries (please don't let them dump it).

We also get some outlandish requests like "Make it like a kipper - make it like that which we have at home in Kipperstan sur Mer  on very special occasions and, as you do it, we will stand and politely scrutinise your every move. It must be exactly so. Each bone. The entire family and generations past are watching you now. No stress. As we say in Kipperstan sur Mer 'God almighty makes the fish perfect. The fishmonger less so.'  #Fishmongervoyeurism is trending apparently.

Sometimes we have to listen very carefully to the preparation request as English isn't always the customer's first language. A simple request to "Leave the head" can be very confusing. Do they want the actual salmon head or not? Should I leave the head in a bag with and spinal bones for fish stock to be given to the customer? Leave the fish head on the body of the fish peut etre? Maybe you want me to leave it on the side to go into our fridge as waste?"

Maybe the request has a density of such poetic complexity we can only expect to humanly scrape the surface of it. "Please Oh Mr/Miss Respected Fish Person. I ask, nay deeply implore you to: Leave the head only if it has bright virginal eyes identical to the sacred Madonna, skin as shiny and crystalline as an October morning sea at Dubrovnik and with ruddy gills like the freshly painted window blinds I saw that sublime day I visited a side canal in Venice and knew not its name but felt forever blessed by its colourful, intoxicating, Italianate Rococo existence."

With us getting an influx of customers from varying cultural backgrounds we have to politely ask that the salmon on display is not prodded, poked, tickled, flipped over, licked as a fetish, or the ruby red gills minutely examined or discussed by excitable generations of Cantonese or Mediterranean folk crowding the counter front with their mobile phones and translator apps documenting everything fishy.

More importantly the name 'salmon' is not pronounced 'sallamon' nor is a fillet a 'fill-ay' comme en Francais but 'fill - it' like 'I have a hole so I must fill it.' Little things matter to us fishmongers. 
Prétention is not our tier

Sometimes we get asked to take all the scales off the whole salmon and then to take the skin off. There is no point in removing all the 'flicker about everywhere' scales on the fish skin when the customer's end game is not to have the skin left on their portions or salmon side. Occasionally, we have passionately done the entire job and bagged the whole salmon up in portions and the customer suddenly decides they want the skin taking off their twenty portions!!! This would mean weighing the whole thing again with the waste (that wot they refused) which is now hidden amongst dozens of bags of fish waste in the green tray at bottom of the fish fridge. Patience can be a virtue.

This is when the patience, the  skills and passion of my internet friend Emma come into play. I have never met Emma McKeating face to face but she is one of the most passionate fishmongers in the UK that Tesco have on their counters. Her recent 'Girly fishmonger' web blog post is certainly worth a read.

Emma McKeating.

Plus, right next door on the meat counter at Tesco Beeston (which I help run) there are half price whole leg of English lamb offers, and half price British beef roasting joints and half price British beef rib roast as the main offers. Busy busy busy!

My colleagues Paul and Alan, Nicola and Debbie (as well as additional help from the deli staff Andrea, Alistair, Adele and Sharon) have all worked very hard this Easter to make sure that the customers have gone away happy with their meat and fish products and I wish them all (and you dear readers) a very happy Easter!

Funnier than the average fishmonger: Phil Lowe.


emma mckeating said...

Absolutely brilliant! Had a good chuckle as I echo all your sentiments. Thank you for adding that piece about me too I feel very honoured x Em

Shirley Bowers said...

Wonderful read and Emma is one of the best and certainly deserves recognition