Perhaps when I am at the stage where my last few friends will visit me to wheel my bath chair into the morning sun, I may begin to think this way. But, today, I still have my faculties (if not my follicles) so I know how much better things are now than back then.
Let me take you back to a time just over 30 years ago. I had my first job, working for a publisher out of a dingy office on the third floor (fourth floor to you Americans, artist’s garret to you romantics) beside Larry Murphy’s Pub on Dublin’s Baggot Street. Apart from my main job of selling subscriptions to a computer magazine, and selling copies of the ill-fated Guide to Dublin Pubs, I was repeatedly dispatched to the bar next door to get gin and tonics for important business meetings held behind the closed doors of the boss’s office. My involvement no more than delivering the full and taking away the empty. These mysterious meetings were often ribald, loud and boisterous affairs – a definite change to how we do it today.
Lunchtime was a chance to escape the madness, an opportunity to buy a sandwich and to dine al fresco. I would often spend my break sitting in Merrion Square showing off my long curly hair and wide lapeled suit with waistcoat (vest to ye Americans) and heavily flared pants. The takeaway choice on my part of Baggot Street back then was limited to a sandwich from one of two outlets. The range was pretty awesome. One could have any combination of brown or white bread with ham, cheese and lettuce also in any combination.
Side note 1: I make that 12 sandwich options open to you assuming you don’t have a lettuce sandwich (either white or brown). Why would you do that?
The difference between the two outlets being that one served pre-made and the other, a newsagent run by two kind old dears, made to order. In the latter, the seal of quality and freshness that would inevitably be left by the old maid making one’s lunch was a big thumb-print in the centre of the sandwich where she pressed down while cutting the bread. This accentuated by the shadow of newsprint that every newsagent had on their hands back then. Imagine eating food with a big black thumbprint! Have we moved along at all in over 30 years?
I suspect not because last evening, I cooked fish that boasts a thumbprint on either side. The John Dory is a fine fish that needs to be treated with more respect than a cheese sandwich. Legend has it that the dark spot is St. Peter’s thumbprint. The more I think about this, the less probable it is to be true. A thumbprint on either side of the fish? What the hell was St. Peter playing at?
Anyway, to convince myself that times are better today than then, I cooked Pan Fried John Dory with Bok Choi in Garlic and Sweet Potato with Parmesan Cheese. This sounds pretty fancy. I was driven by a desire to use up the one remaining sweet potato in the house and the last of the bok choi.
Here’s what you need:
- 2 filets of very fresh John Dory
- 2 heads of bok choi
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 sweet potato
- Parmesan cheese to grate
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil or similar and butter for frying
- Salt and black pepper to season
- Seasoned flour to dust your fish
Peel and blitz the sweet potato.
Add some seasoning and some olive oil.
Pack into pastry cutters and pop into the oven on a baking tray.
200 degrees centigrade for 25 minutes.
Wash and trim the bok choi. Peel and chop the garlic. Fry the bok choi in a wok in oil seasoned with the garlic.
Get your pan to medium hot add the oil and butter. Fry the fish for a couple of minutes until it is cooked. This is probably less time than you think. These are slim fish and will be ruined if you over-cook them. Don’t do that.
Put it all on a couple of plates and serve it.
I am not a man to force his views on the unwilling. If you are a Luddite and believe that things were better back in the day, here’s how to make a 1979 Cheese Sandwich.
You will need
- 2 slices of bread
- 2 slices of rubbery cheese
- Butter substitute
- Some newspapers to thumb through
Spread the butter substitute on one side of the two slices of bread. Place the rubbery cheese on the butter substituty bit of one slice. Place the other slice, butter substitute side down on the cheese. Slice.
Side note 2: If you are having your wife’s / husband’s / partner’s parents over, you might want to cut the sandwich on the diagonal. If you are a groveling, slimy, social climber, you may wish to remove the crusts. If you are making the sandwich for hairy armed men, cut across the centre and don’t touch the crusts. Real men like crusts.
Serve to the unfortunates who put up with you.