“Who is the guy who will squeeze blood out of a turnip?”
“Who will walk away from something he loves, if the price is not right?”
“It’s me.” I try to say that in a tough, sleeves rolled up, cigar at the corner of my mouth kind of way. I want you to have the right picture. I’m no sap. I don’t walk into negotiations and accept the opening bid. Every price can and should be negotiated. Screw the bastards before they screw you! That’s how to play the game.
Well, that should be how to play. Though, I can have difficulty getting the other side to understand the rules. Let me back-fill for a bit. I love to get my hands on suitable plates, bowls and cutlery to use here on the blog. I also get great pleasure out of finding a suitable prop or two. I have my happy hunting grounds. These include the Blackrock Market, not far from my home and also the Merchant’s Market on Dublin’s East Wall Road. I like to sneak out of the house on a weekend morning and spend some time in the market poking through drawers and tins in search of the right knife, plate or spoon. I do this on my own as no sane person could put up with my antics.
The stall holders have got over their suspicion of me. You too would be suspicious of a guy wanting to buy one of a set of twelve dinner plates. One of my favourite stalls is Merchants Upholstery and Fabrics, run by the ever helpful Kevin. I negotiate materials to use as tablecloths. Kevin always gives great advice and a generous meter measurement. He insists on €3 per metre. How the hell do you negotiate that? Kevin is not helping my hard-nosed rep.
Having failed to cut any discount with Kevin and being down the princely sum of €3, I make my way to the Yellow Brick Room run by Christy and Margaret. Their easy style lulls me into a false sense of wellbeing. I part with another un-negotiated €2.50 for two plates. I then tell Christy that I would like a picture. He agrees and I take the shot below.
We fall into conversation about antique pottery and different manufacturers. He shows me a bowl, marked at an outlandish €4 and explains all about the Arklow Pottery and the Indian Tree pattern. I get ready to fight my corner. I think I’ll get him down to €2! “What would you be looking at for the bowl?” I ask in as disinterested a tone as I can muster. He destroys my negotiating position by saying “Not at all, it’s a present. I love to see somebody so interested in what we do.” I slink away, bowl in hand, unable to feel good about my hard-nosed self.
I head for home and start to prepare the evening meal.
My Halibut with Asparagus over Lentils and Peas recipe is almost all there in the title. The full list for four people is as follows:
- 2 big thick pieces of fresh halibut
- 3 cans of Lentils
- About 150 grammes of fresh or frozen peas
- 400 ml of good chicken stock
- 2 bunches of fresh asparagus
- A teaspoon of tomato purée
- A splash of soy sauce
- Salt and pepper both to flavour and to season the flour
- Half a tablespoon of flour
Drain and rinse the lentils. Put them in a saucepan along with the peas, chicken stock, tomato purée, soy sauce and some salt and pepper.
Skin the fish and slice it into single serving size portions.
Steam the asparagus. Dust the fish in seasoned flour.
Fry the fish over medium heat in a mix of oil and butter. Don’t over-cook it.
Dry the fish on kitchen paper (or newspaper, if you failed to negotiate a decent price in the supermarket). Spoon a generous amount of the lentil mixture into an antique Arklow Pottery Indian Tree bowl, if you are lucky enough to own one. Place the halibut on top and arrange the asparagus to best effect. Photograph it and serve.
Look out for the various patterned tablecloths elsewhere on the blog and think of Kevin. Each time you see this bowl, you will know that I have had Christy’s generosity in mind. Natural, human kindness seems to have defeated the cigar chomping, tough talking negotiator. Thanks be to goodness.