The man at the fish stall announced proudly that the fish were jumping. The other customer and I stared to what he was pointing at, a single gasping flounder on top of a pile of its past soulmates. Mouth gaping, pectoral fin briskly waving and both eyes turned to us, it uttered no words. Despite appearances there was no offer to make a wish if we returned it to the sea – as in the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale ‘The Fisherman and the Flounder’ – instead we stared back at it. In a quiet, perhaps Steinbeckian, moment the man and the women in front of me recalled simple memories of a deceased father and ex-husband. The flounder, like other flat fish, feeds on the sea bottom. Following the tide it can move up the fresh water of rivers. Lingering under bridge supports and banks, it is a welcome catch for anglers who bring them home to deposit them in their son’s beach buckets and wife’s kitchen sinks. ‘I’ll have a dead one, thank you’ – the spell was broken, I cheerfully echoed my fellow customer’s request.
Flounders are glibly given a bad name in many cook books. This maybe be put down to the existence of such flat fish luminaries as turbot, brill and Dover sole that are so good. But if we only had the flounder and the plaice available to us we would be very content with our lot. (The reality is that we cannot often afford the prices of the up-market flat fish.) More informed books admit that flounder can be very good; a variation that may be partly down to the age and diet of the fish.
The fillets we ate that evening were breadcrumbed and fried to keep them dry and taut. One of the showiest local cats is light and fluffy with ‘Midwich Cuckoo’ eyes. Led by its cat sense it sauntered through the open kitchen door down the length of the house to where the fish was being savoured. Now that’s fresh.
The Market Plaice, Swansea Market.