Tuesday, 17 May 2011
“Fish is the only food that is considered spoiled once it smells like what it is.” This saying was originally coined by American writer P.J. O’Rourke but it can easily be used to reflect Ireland’s attitude towards fish. During the first For Food’s Sake discussion in The Sugar Club on Thursday 31st March, under the topic ‘What’s the Future for Irish Food Production?’ the debate turned to why we have failed to embrace seafood despite been surrounded by sea. Graham Roberts of the Connemara Smokehouse took centre stage as he enlightened the 100-strong crowd with his insider knowledge.
Graham journeyed deep into our history to explain why Ireland has never fully indulged in the great variety of fish we have in our seas. Surprisingly he linked traumatic childhood fish experiences to Ireland’s poor attitude. However there were no psychological scars with the audience as they devoured Graham’s smoked tuna earlier on in the evening.
“Traditionally in Ireland all the good fish is exported and the leftovers stay here. A lot of people here don’t like fish because we have been left with these leftovers. This leads to certain negativity towards fish because I think people became daunted by the idea of preparing fish. Any kid who had to prepare these leftovers would be put off fish for life.”
But Graham knows how to turn kids towards the light as he has successful proven with his own children. “I feel very strongly when preparing fish for my kids that the bones are removed and it looks appealing. Fish won’t be an issue for them in the future.”
If there was anyone in the audience suffering from childhood psychological fish trauma Graham was able to provide some therapy. “Go to the fishmongers and have the fish prepared. Fish is the ultimate fast food; if you got a fillet of fish prepped then it takes just a few minutes in a pan, add some seasoning and lemon, and that’s it. Combine some vegetables with that and you have a really cheap, quick and healthy meal.”
After Ireland’s attitude towards fish was put aside the panel discussion went on to address the future of the Irish fish industry. Graham explained how the fish industry in Ireland has the potential for growth while putting Irish fish back onto Irish shelves:
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“The industry is struggling but I believe the future lies with these small fishermen. The quality of fish coming in is higher with smaller boats and there is also the question of fish sustainability. Small fisherman are going out and not catching huge volumes of fish so there is a future for fishing generations to come. It is something that I feel very strongly about because of the fishermen I work with. I would love to think that our future generations will work together.”