I was dealt another food-induced involuntary memory at the time of writing. It comes hot on the heels of my bizarre “caviar on toast for breakfast” childhood memory, recovered on new year’s eve.
Anyway, the lunchtime special of the day (10 January 2018) in my client’s staff canteen was baked mackerel with onions. Very tasty it was too.
I remembered, so clearly, that my mother’s baked mackerel with onions was one of my favourite dishes.
I also remembered that it was one of mum’s “economy meals”. Times were hard in the mid to late 1970s. Mum shopped very carefully to help make ends meet. In addition, she had a routine which was to include one meal per week described as the “economy meal”.
Sometimes it would be a fish economy meal on a Tuesday. Sometimes it would be a meat economy meal on a Wednesday. Monday was leftovers from weekend roast day. Thursday was always fish day. Friday night was friday night. That’s how it worked.
Mum was almost apologetic about the economy meal, but the strange thing is, I used to look forward to them, because the economy meal was often, e.g. the baked mackerel dish, a real favourite of mine.
Here’s a recipe for baked mackerel – this is a modern recipe from the Guardian, so it is a bit “sexed-up” compared with mum’s, but looks good.
Thoughts of other “economy meal of the week” dishes started to flood into my head:
- stuffed lamb’s hearts – might sound disgusting to those who hate offal or who can only contemplate liver from the offal department, but believe me, after slow braising, stuffed lamb’s hearts are unbelievably tasty. Here is a recipe not dissimilar to mum’s;
- baked klops – or meatloaf. Economy in mum’s case because she would basically pad out cheap mince with egg and cereal. There are gazillions of recipes for meatloaf on line, but this “posh klops” recipe – click here – miles away from mum’s economy principles (veal mince…Balsamic vinegar!!) – sounds so very yummy I might give it a try;
- salmon rissoles. Now this was an oddity in the economy meal department. Salmon rissoles with tinned red salmon were already occasionally on the agenda for the “regular fish meal” on Thursdays. Tinned pink salmon was much cheaper in those days (if you shop around possibly still is), so mum would sometimes make an economy meal of pink salmon rissoles. I’m not sure I could tell much difference – perhaps a bit more “meaty texture” to the red (Oncorhynchus nerka) species although surely the texture is lost in the tinning and rissoling. Little did I know then that, ironically, I would subsequently do deep, seminal economic research into the Alaskan salmon industry – click here for link to The Economist piece on the subject, although strangely, the pink species, Oncorhynchus gorbuscha, received less scrutiny than the red (sockeye), for reasons far too dull to explain. Here’s a link to a pinko recipe anyway;
- sauteed chicken livers. This one was an absolute favourite and became one of my student staples, once I discovered that by far the cheapest source of animal protein available in North Staffordshire at that time (early 1980s) was frozen chicken livers from Sainsbury’s. Here is a more than half-decent recipe, albeit a sexed-up one – there was no port in Ian’s Keele delicacy…nor was there orange juice.
When I got home from my meetings, I wondered whether I might have eaten that very baked mackerel dish exactly forty years ago to the day and looked at my old diary. Turns out that 10 January 1978 was a Tuesday, so I might very well have done.
I also realised that Tuesday 10 January would almost certainly have been a “caviar on toast for breakfast…economy meal for dinner” day. Bizarre, but that’s how it was.
What I also learned about that evening, after the second day of the school term, was the following:
gave talk at BBYO with Graham [Majin] on the cartoon. Went down well.
Ah yes, the cartoon. I really need to try to patch that thing together digitally. Graham’s attempt, a few years ago, to get the BBC properly to copy the 8mm film itself shredded the celluloid. Another Ogblog project to add to the list. Watch this space.
Anyway, all that foodie memory came flooding back simply as a result of tasting baked mackerel again in a style so similar to my mum’s…
…Proust can keep his madeleines – pah!