“And thus I clothe my naked fish with old ends of fake newsprint.”
- Not quite William Shakespeare, Richard III
If you want fish in London, you don’t have to cast a line into the Thames, although I might just do that because river snakes its way through town and passes just a few blocks away from our current vacation digs. In fact, we’re almost exactly halfway between the riverbank and the Queen’s bedroom. We’ll be wandering about London for a few days, before heading to Italy.
It is a state secret that certain royals have been known to catch what locals call “coarse” fish, including perch, carp and pike, in the Thames. These boorish varieties (the fish, not the royals) are not at all like proper trout or salmon, nor are they as tasty as a piping hot, deep fried piece of Atlantic cod served with chips (fries), mushy peas, salt, vinegar and then wrapped in a newspaper (Page 3 of the London Sun if you’re lucky.)
Sir Walter Raleigh brought the chips (potatoes) to England from America in the 17th Century. The French get credit for frying them in leftover lard, and the Brits made them part of their national dish.
Cod have been a staple in the British Isles for hundreds of years, but deep frying them seems to have popped up around the time Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist (1839).
Dottie and I will be stopping by Charles’ house later this week and we’ll be sure to ask him about his favorite recipes. We also plan to knock on the door at 221 Baker St. to see if Sherlock will share any secrets about things fishy in London.
I did see a few anglers casting lines into the river. Whether or not I try it, we will probably see more fish in the local restaurants. There are thousands that serve fish and chips, the most popular fast food on this side of the Atlantic.
But, we haven’t reached the continent yet. Things could be different there.
Already separated from the rest of Europe by the English Channel, the Brits have recently voted to add another degree of separation. There seems to be considerable post-election regret about that here in London Town.
Yesterday, I stopped to talk to a guy standing by his fishing pole near the Tower Bridge.
“How’s the fishing?” I asked him.
“Not bad,” he replied, smiling broadly. “Better than working for a living. What do you think of our fair city?” he asked.
“We love London, but I do have a question. About that vote – what were you thinking?” I asked.
He laughed. “Right back at ya, yank.”
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a place close to home to fish, try San Francisco Bay, where striped bass are biting just about anything you throw in the water. Check with Keith Fraser at Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael for the latest report, 415-456-0l321.