Virginia Barton

14 October 2013: Chowder, again


14 October 2013

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“Why don’t you come for supper? Tell you what, I’ll make you the best fish chowder you ever tasted. Come on Friday since it’s a fish day.”

“Love to,” she said, “and I’ll bring Mike if I may; we love chowder and haven’t had it since we were in the States last year.”

I’d forgotten Beatrice and her brother were regular visitors to the States and that Mike was a superb cook. Never mind, my chowder was tried, tested, and delicious.


Great care was taken in the choice of ingredients; the fish (vastly expensive despite this country being lapped by sea on every side), was picked out by a sympathetic monger with my recipe in hand: “’addock an’ ‘ake an’ prawn missis; tha’s righ’ innit?” With cod substituted for ‘ake it was indeed right. I even purchased eyebrow tweezers to remove the bones.

Ever since I rediscovered my chowder recipe and embellished it with suggestions from kind friends across the Pond, I have been making chowder regularly. Our English chums love it: those with the jaded palates of fine college dining praise its “regional authenticity and unusually delicate piscatorial piquancy”. Humbug, it’s just plain delicious.

And even BH, no fish-lover he, unless it’s disguised as a meat pie or patty, tucks in with gusto. (Stern critic of my cuisine, BH is almost always my yardstick.)


king_prawnsIt’s been a gloriously hot summer here – day after day and week after week of temperatures well into the ’70s. Cooking has been a chore and we have lived on salads (loathed by yours truly unless someone else makes it, all that tiresome washing of lettuce) and cold food that fills the frig to the gunnels.

Suffice it to say I made the chowder early Thursday morning, bar the prawns, and tucked it in the oven because there was no room in the ‘frig to be out of harm’s way till Friday evening. No, the oven was not on and the door was shut.

I took it out to re-heat and finish off on Friday, removed the lid and literally staggered backwards: it had not only gone off, it was as high as a kite! The potatoes had fermented I suppose, and goodness knows what the twenty quid’s worth of fish had done.


I cared not what to give the guests – how to dispose of the disaster was much more pressing. In the old days, when I had a “proper” garden, not just a patch, I buried this sort of thing at dead of night in some far off corner. Now, all I could do was to drain it as fast as possible and put the detritus into 4 plastic bags tightly knotted. Half a bottle of bleach with 3 buckets of water eventually dealt with the lingering smell.

Beatrice and Mike had a rather nice prawn curry instead, which raised eyebrows but no complaints.


Do any of you possess an Aga? Next time perhaps I’ll tell a grisly tale about the one I left behind.






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