Thursday, 17 November 2011

hook, line and sinker

I know I’m going to dream about fish tonight, after a day of mackerel fishing on the sea.  It feels as though my kitchen is rolling on the swell and the Easterlies that rocked our boat, the Ocean Warrior 3 all day.

We set off from Newhaven harbour at eight in the morning on what is, despite its name, a small chartered fishing boat. The skipper, Dave, took us straight out to some wrecks where he located fish on the screen in his cabin. Once anchored over a shoal, the mate, Steve, put on the tackle and bait on to our rods and off we went.

I’ve never caught a fish before but I had asked for a rod for my birthday two years ago as I wanted to develop what is a crucial skill for feeding ourselves. I’d been occasionally fishing off Seaford Head since then. Even though I’d accepted that I might not catch a fish today I was really excited when the first took my bait - a mackerel whose doleful eyes stared at me as I pulled the hook out of its mouth and threw it in the box to suffocate. Then another, and another. One of the men on board, Ron, lent me his mackerel tackle, which consists of six feathers and hooks that the mackerel seemed to love, because I immediately caught six on one line, almost as soon as I threw the line in the water.

When I caught two dabs on one hook, Steve told me I was a ‘dab hand’ at this. I was happy at that and also happy to move and roll with the boat. We all caught many fish between us. After a while, though, I stopped, though, as I felt that would easily do for my dinner, my friends and my freezer. It almost seemed unfair to the fish for the fishing, and their death, to be so easy. I felt grateful that these gorgeous grey-green dappled mackerels and the white, soft bellied whiting were giving their life for me. I said a little prayer as I put each one away and thanked them as I was gutting them back at home.

I now understand the lure of the sea, the magic of that suspended time with the wind, the waves and the fish. I hope that dreamy state will stay with me for some days yet.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

blessed are the bread makers

There’s a big discussion going on in our house and it’s all about bread. It started during my week of being a locavore, eating within Sussex, when I discovered that the artisan bread sold in Lewes is made from flour from the other side of England (plus at £3-ish a loaf, it’s expensive). During that week I started making sourdough bread from locally grown and milled flour. An authentic Lewes loaf.

But my children don’t like the sourdough. The crust is too hard and they don’t like the slightly sour taste. So I got a toaster from Freecycle, hoping that would entice them. But they’re still complaining and are now asking for lunch money on a daily basis, not feeling like eating the bread on offer. Despite being hardy in terms of my own food choices, I do sympathise. So we’ll probably continue with both artisan and sourdough, at least until I manage to make an acceptable loaf.

There are now four households cooking sourdough on a regular basis in my area of Lewes. We’ve started to wonder whether we should investigate building a community oven, much like the new one at Wowo campsite, which can hold 40 loaves at a time, maybe at Lewes New School? My friend Grace and I went to the brilliant Baking Communities event at the Town Hall last night. While munching on goodies spread on bread from our four artisan bakers – Flint Own, Lighthouse, The Real Patisserie and Infinity Bakers – we started to mull it over with a baker – Michael - who also builds bread ovens and helps groups of people learn about baking. I can’t wait to get started!
Later in the evening Andrew Whitley, author of the bread bible, Bread Matters, and Real Bread Campaign co-founder, described his vision of 25,000 bakeries (we currently have 3,000), supplying bread through all sorts of supply chains across the country. Real bread is a far cry from the industrially grown, Chorleywood process-enhanced bread that makes up most of our loaves in the UK. And it’s hard to see how a real bread culture can take off when so many people are still so wedded (or should I say addicted) to supermarkets.
But as Rob Hopkins says in this fascinating article about the connections between Transition and the Occupy movement, transition is about occupying our own lives, our own communities. Reclaiming abundance, skills and relationships back from the corporate sphere is something that we can each do in tiny steps. And bread is a good place to start.