Saturday, 29 April 2017

A grotesque culinary assault

Normally, when I write about food, I'm writing about LittleBear and his unwillingness to eat anything that other small children might consider normal. And, though I've been tempted to write more on that subject of late, this time I'm writing about one of my own food encounters.

I work in an engineering firm, and my engineering firm follows the age-old British tradition of going out for a pie-and-a-pint on a Friday lunchtime. Now, this doesn't actually have to include either a pie or a pint, but it's nice to have the option. And the pub that we've been going to every lunchtime for more than a decade has become almost as set in its way as we have. So much so, that despite repeated exhortations from their most long-standing customers, they refuse to cook pie on a Friday. Because, apparently, Monday is pie-day. So we have shaken off the shackles of habit and are exploring other local eateries.

To attempt to form a fair and balanced assessment of each establishment, we are making sure that we all choose a different item from the lunch menu, and compare notes on the results. Last Friday I chose the fisherman's pie, something I felt was hard to get catastrophically wrong, but has scope to be done really, really well.

My colleagues variously chose ham, egg and chips, liver and bacon and a burger. It was that kind of pub. And then the food came... a burger, a plate of liver and bacon and... a fish burger? I went all British on the young man bringing the food and very foolishly said, "I ordered a fisherman's pie, but if you haven't got one, I'll just have that instead." He affirmed that they didn't have fisherman's pie, and gave me the fish burger. I was expecting something along the lines of a fishcake in a burger bun, or some form of breaded fish in a roundish, burgerish shape. I am partial to the occasional fishfinger sandwich, so I thought I was more or less ready for anything. I was wrong.  I was not ready for a piece of battered cod perched inside a bun.

Cautiously I opened the lid of the burger bun to inspect the contents. Yes, it was a piece of battered cod, rather as you might expect in a fish and chippie. Lurking beneath it were some slices of tomato and shreds of lettuce. The bun was gently toasted. So far, so not-too-appalling. But, dear God, what was that? It was cheese. Melted cheese on top of the fish. I poked it. I stretched it. I plucked a piece and tasted it. Cheese. On a piece of battered cod.

At this point, I backed away from the whole idea of eating it as an intact item. The textural contrasts on offer were not appealing. But since most of the ingredients were probably inoffensive, I was still willing to deconstruct my own lunch. A few swift manoeuvres later and I had a pretty good toasted bun, a little heap of salad and a piece of battered fish, still irrevocably adorned with cheese, but I could mine my way beneath the insulting upper layer. So mine I did. Right up until I reached the uncooked fish in the middle.

I was willing to overlook the peculiar nature of the meal.

I was willing to overlook the use of cheese on battered fish.

I was not willing to overlook raw fish.

I finally sent it back. And in its place I received the fisherman's pie I'd ordered originally. And it was covered in cheese. What is wrong with these people? Not only did they assault me with a gratuitously unpleasant meal when they could have brought the dish I'd ordered in the first place, but they appear to have a fetish for cheesy fish. There are a very few occasions where fish and cheese belong together:

1. Smoked salmon and cream cheese.
2. Erm...
3. That's it.

There is no occasion when battered cod should be accompanied by melted ersatz cheddar.

Suffice to say, we do not intend to grace the portals of that particular eating establishment with our presence again.

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