Do you like your shrimps shaken – or stirred?

DSCN0838James Bond likes his shrimps potted.

It’s the bizarre kind of fact a journalist finds useful for livening up a dull article.

I once worked on a magazine in Park Lane, London. At Christmas the printers used to take my boss to a well-known restaurant, Scott’s of Mayfair.

Ian Fleming ate potted shrimps there, often, apparently.

QED.

Anyway, as an erstwhile journalist of sorts, I was reminded this week of just how much more fun blogging is than – yawn, sorry, where was I?

Oh, yes. Writing for a magazine.

I no longer do freelance journalism – but – there is a slim chance, not one I’m relishing right now. Foolishly I offered a piece to a local magazine, a county magazine whose September issue runs to over 300 pages. Well over 300.**

You see, last Sunday we went shrimp fishing.

(I’m not typing shrimp- joined to -ing any more after entering it into Google and reading the result. Please don’t. Trust me on this.)

I wasn’t looking forward to it. A jaunt that required me to be at the beach before 9 am on a Sunday?

Madness.

Saturday night the storms our fisherman said were due for the morning rolled through early. Rain fell in that power-shower way it does after thunder.

I went to bed early, fearing the worst.

P1030310 (2) - CopyBut the Lord’s day was blessed with beaming sun, deep blue sky and freshly washed streaky white clouds.

By the time we reached the beach I was happy. The sun had got his hat on and we were both coming out to play.

Kevin, the fisherman, wasn’t hard to spot – the one with the tractor. A cheery, chatty chap, he took us up to look at the oddball vehicles parked in their ugly compound.

P1030314The vehicles are all used for shrimp fishing and some – another 007 connection? – are amphibious. But not sleek or shiny in any way at all. The reverse. And when Kevin said some of them have propellers but you can’t drive them like an amphibious vehicle – well, it all fell apart really.

We stood idly chatting while Christian, Kevin’s brother rolled a cigarette and mended his nets until Kevin deemed it was time to go.

Plans for the three of us to squeeze into the cab were abandoned – gleefully we grabbed a cushion each and sat on the tractors’ marine ply skirt, over the front wheels.*

P1030346Southport beach is long. In both directions – side to side and out to sea. Reaching the sea has always been a challenge, so on Sunday, at low tide, I was glad we were tractor-borne.

P1030367 (2)Eventually the brown waves (aftermath of all that rain) were nibbling at the wheels and we stopped while Kevin adjusted his nets.

As we rode into the sea it felt a bit weird, looking down and thinking – that’s the sea there – what if?

The water was only a few feet deep, judging by its distance up the big back wheels. But a memory floated to the surface that I’d rather had remained submerged.

When I was very little, we lived in a Lancashire town that still had annual Rose Queen processions. One year a girl fell off the float and under the wheels of the lorry. Gruesome.

Anyway, the first trawl was a little too fast to net us much, so we went a bit slower on the second.

P1030365It’s a wonderful feeling, sitting outside on a vehicle. We used to ride on Land Rover bonnets in Swaziland out in the bush, clinging onto the spare wheel for dear life, ducking to avoid thorny branches.

Sitting on Kevin Peet’s tractor chugging gently through the sea on a balmy August day is infinitely better, I can now report.

A murmuration made a magical sideshow (but a lousy picture) and as we came to a halt a flock of small birds with pale undersides flew into the air, creating an effect like a shattered windscreen. So pretty.P1030333 (2)

The two nets were disgorged into orange baskets, then into different mesh-sized sieves for sorting. It was sad to see the little flat fish puffing for breath as they landed the wrong side up (and sweet to see soft-hearted best beloved flipping them over as fast as he could).

Seagulls stood sentinel, waiting.DSCN0791 (2)

But there’s one fish even the seagulls won’t touch. The Weaver fish. A black spike protrudes from its back.

‘That’s where the poison is, says Kevin.

P1030391

The catch goes through two or three different sized meshes to winnow out the shrimps

It causes excruciating pain in your hand, or your whole arm and can even freeze your shoulder. One remedy, says Kevin, is to stick your hand In boiling water.

I hope he doesn’t mean that.

Don't feel sorry for it - it's a Weaver fish (tho I suppose its mum moved it)

Don’t feel sorry for it – it’s a Weaver fish (tho I suppose its mum loved it)

Anyway, it seems there isn’t enough for him to take back so we get a black bucket, three plaice and a huge pile of tiny shrimps to cook.

We rush back home and cook as instructed. Peel as instructed. Well, it works on a few.

There are too many. And many are too small, even for shrimps.

[Dear Americans: our shrimps are shrimps, your shrimps are prawns, they’re different. Shrimps are tiny. Prawns come in all sorts of bigger sizes.This is not scientific 😉 .]

P1030449We sit drinking English rose wine – a mere 10.5% alcohol and beautifully tasty (thank you big sis) and feeling guilty – a little – because we can’t eat all the shrimps.

Then the wind starts to rise. Oddly hot and humid. The trees shudder nervously and the clouds are coming in.

We adjourn inside.

And I think of the story of Kevin’s grandad’s brother who died when the fog rolled in as he fished from his horse and cart. Of the 2.30 mornings, out fishing for sea bass, grey mullet and Dover sole.

And resolve to buy more potted shrimps. And sea bass. And – now and again, maybe – a little Dover sole.


 

If you live anywhere near Southport, Peet’s Plaice in Churchtown has the freshest tastiest local fish, haddock smoked by Christian Peet over woodchips from barrels supplied by a Liverpool cooper (yes, there’s still a cooper in the docks) – and potted shrimps.

*(At our own choice and risk, I should stress, for Kevin’s insurance purposes!)

** Spurned! Because they didn’t like my pictures – and I sent them the better ones!

 

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19 Responses to Do you like your shrimps shaken – or stirred?

  1. mud4fun says:

    Great post M, yummy shrimps. This takes me back to my childhood and visiting Parkgate on the Wirral, only a few miles from where we used to live. There was a nice restaurant there *back in the 1970’s) that served shrimps in butter sauce with lovely home made brown bread.

    Now curiously I always thought shrimps were from rivers and estuaries and prawns were from the open sea. There doesn’t appear to be any consistency in the naming of them as my Polish friend calls prawns shrimps and calls langoustines prawns!

    PS. I’ve braved the reader to try and catch up on posts. Would you have any objection to me putting a link to your blog onto my own blog so I can be lazy and click through to you and avoid using the reader? I’m starting to do that will all the blogs I follow.

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    • Hiya Ian – when you say shrimps in butter sauce I have to tell you that I always used to eat my potted shrimps with toast as they are straight out of the pot but when we had lunch in a little cafe here in town one day they warmed them up and dolloped them on the toast – voila, shrimps in butter sauce! I live and learn, sometimes. I also thought there was a big difference in family between the two but it appears not – my Amercian rellies call big things ‘shrimnp’ and don’t seem to have the small brown ones we have. And yes, of course, go ahead and make life easier for yourself with a link – and in doing so make it less likely I’ll lose an online friend who is not too shy to disagree with me – openly!!!

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    • charliebritten says:

      My husband almost certainly visited your restaurant in Parkgate, as (a) he was at school in Parkgate and (b) he (still) loves all shellfish.

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      • mud4fun says:

        I’m struggling to remember the restaurant name as I was very young at the time. However it may well have simply been the Parkgate Hotel. I actually stayed in that Hotel many years later on a business trip and it did have a decent restaurant but sadly no shrimp on the menu when I stayed. I’m sure the decor had changed somewhat since the 70’s too 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. charliebritten says:

    Like your piece of shrimp-fishing in Southport, MOH, but… aren’t you spoiling your article by publishing this post? Or have you more up your sleeve?

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    • I didn’t really think he’d go for it and he hasn’t – didn’t rate my pictures apparently and I saved the best ones to send him too, boo hiss!!! First time I’ve ever been relieved to get a rejection for a magazine piece – I felt really annoyed at having to write in someone else’s style! Oh dear … penury beckons

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      • charliebritten says:

        Pity about your pitch. I thought your pics were great, really captured the atmosphere of that part of the world. You say you didn’t really want the article, so presumably you don’t want to bother subbing it anywhere else.

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        • Probably not – I like the idea of being paid for writing for a change – but I found I wasn’t really inspired – the articles in the mag concerend are so short it’s really all about the pics and the ads of course. Did you have any place in mind? I did a couple of ‘landscape’ features for a glossy mag and one for a newspaper – years ago – that I really enjoyed writing – but they used professional photographers so I didn’t have to worry about that at all.

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        • And thanks again for the kind comments.

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  3. charliebritten says:

    Also, I’ve forwarded your post to my friend who lives in Formby.

    Like

  4. Thel says:

    Is this style of shrimp fishing considered outdated or environmentally destructive?

    Like

    • Hardly anyone does it any more and it’s very small scale and therefore I assume environmentally sound – it’s been a small scale industry here for generations. By contrast, brown shrimp – as they are called – are also fished by Dutch and Scandinavian companies and sold vauum packed – apparently they are flown to Morrocco for peeling – sent back, vacuum packed – long shelf life and lots of chemicals and huge carbon footprint. All Kevin’s catch is sold locally and if potted only spices and butter added. And they are so good! I coud have written it more about how and when and why but saved that for the rejected magazine submission – they didn’t like the pictures which was key – and I sent them the better ones! Ah well, a relief, to be honest. Hope your trip was good.

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  5. EllaDee says:

    Here we call it prawning regardless of size… no questionable connotations as far as I’m aware…
    I’ve been but would love to go, wading in a body of salt water an night with torches and nets sounds like an adventure and then you get to eat the proceeds – yum.
    So your sunny day out and shrimp haul sounds wonderful to me. Fresh cooked shrimp with soft white bread and butter is my favourite way to eat them but potted sounds amazing. When we’re at our house near the coast we’re regular customers at the co-op – local seafood only. The seafood industry is a fine balance of use it or lose it, and over use it and lose it.

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  6. Reblogged this on Maid in Britain and commented:
    Finally, for now, another reblog from another of my blogging sites

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