The (Sex and) Fishing Thing

15 December 2011

As some of you may know, I know a good bit about fishing, commercial fishing, that is. That’s because it’s what I used to do.
‘Wot? Like in Trawlermen? Or that Deadliest Catch?’
Well, yes, just like in Trawlermen. I’ll reserve judgement on the Deadliest Catch, thank you. These days I’m still involved with the fishy stuff as the day job that most of we writers have behind us to make sure the bills get paid, the missus gets kept in abject luxury, etc.
When I started writing, first as a mild-mannered reporter for Winch Monthly and before the Phoenix-like metamorphosis into a dashing crime writer, it was always at the back of my mind that I’d be the one to write the great 21st century Sex & Fishing bonkbuster, a bit like Bill McCloskey’s excellent albeit rather stodgy Highliners, but with more rude stuff in it.
I even made a start on the Sex & Fishing bonkbuster, and actually got about 40,000 words into it with the working title of the Trawlerman’s Cookbook, the title being a bit of a steal from the Trawlerman’s Handbook, that sadly long out-of-print bible of everything from splicing a wire to calculating loss of stability due to slack tanks. But that’s as may be. The Trawlerman’s Cookbook ground to a halt for a variety of reasons. All the characters were there, and none of them were based on anyone real or any of the supremely foul-mouthed and colourful characters I sailed with in the old days. Perish the thought. It was the plot that fizzled out. It also turned out that it’s bloody hard to write about sex in any kind of a convincing way that isn’t going to raise a howl of laughter or a grimace of embarrassment, or worse, both.
I’d like to return to it one day and have a tinker with the innards of the Trawlerman’s Cookbook now that I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d best leave writing about sex right out of it. There’s a lot to be said for those three dots... as a discreet curtain is pulled and the reader can exercise his or her own imagination.
The reason for the title was also that I’d intended to split the narrative up with recipes. At that time TV was awash (a good nautical word, there), positively awash with TV cooks, including Rick Stein, the Lord Lieutentant of Padstein... sorry, Padstow. So I thought I’d garnish my story with a series of recipes from the point of view of the trawler’s cook. In fact, these turned out to be a whole load of fun to write, based partly on my own inadequate career as the cook. It’s actually a thankless task. Even on a boat with a crew of three, there’s always going to be some whinging malcontent who moans because your gravy’s not just the same as his Mum’s, blast her. It’s a good proving ground for a writer, as although critics’ barbs can still sting, it’s nothing to being told at top volume by an 18-stone deckie in a string vest that ‘them fuckin’ spuds ain’t fuckin’ done right.’
But be that as it may, I had a quick dig through the bulging archives and thought I’d let my select group of followers here have a quick peek at something from Tony the Chef’s book of recipes. Enjoy, but please don’t try this stuff at home.

Recipe #11 Shit Weather Brekky

You know those days when it's blowing a bastard, the boat's rolling like a turd in a pisspot and you've got to hold on with both hands even when you're sat trying to curl one off? Right, this is just beans and eggs, breakfast for shit weather.
You only need two pots to do all this lot and you can clamp the fiddles across the stove so it'll all stay put. It's all going to jump about a bit and you don't want to piss about with anything fancy when the boat's dancing a fucking jig.
Chop up some onions nice and fine and sling them in the big pot. In with a wodge of oil and get ‘em going. Then break a load of eggs into a bowl and whisk ‘em up, in with a dash of salt and a good load of pepper and whisk a bit more until it's all thick and creamy.
Tip the lot into the pot when the onions are starting to brown, turn the heat right down low and just stir with a big old wooden spoon until it all starts to thicken up nicely. That's your eggs. Piece of piss.
Then in your other pot you want about five tins of beans. Bung ‘em in and do not forget that baked beans should never be seen without a decent splash of tabasco.
Right. When the juice the beans come in is boiling, not too hard though, you can turn the heat off and leave them to stew where they are. Then if your eggs are scrambled properly, without too many burnt bits in the bottom of the pot, you turn that off as well.
Do some toast and a pot of tea for them as wants it. Do not serve. If you put it on the table, it'll go flying and guess who has to clean up all the shit? That's right, the chef. Just leave it all on the stove and anyone who wants can just dig in and slop it on a plate. Bread and marge on the table. Add salt and pepper, tomato, brown, mint or chili sauce to taste.

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