My dad would fry kippers for breakfast some mornings. Imagine a wayward teenage girl with a big red and black smoked fish on their plate; that was me. Dad knew what he was doing; he knew how to keep me in line: Feed me a good breakfast.
He used to cook his kippers in butter until the doctor told him off about his high cholesterol, then he switched to olive oil.
Butter was best. It made the skin crispy and delicious. The meal would stink the house out, mind you. It would be supper before the smell of kipper dissipated. It lingered in a similar fashion in my body.
I ate kipper with thickly buttered white bread and tomato ketchup. You needed the bread to push down the bones. The tomato sauce and the cold butter acted as lubrication.
I’ve tried to recreate this experience, eating kippers that is, in New Zealand. I haven’t been successful. The smoked fish here doesn’t have the skin and bone for crunch. They’re a modified, sweetened version of a kipper.
One of my best kipper experiences was eating a fish in Scotland called an Arbroath Smokie. It earned this name because the small town where the fish are traditionally smoked is called Arbroath.
(Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a kipper. Kipper is Herring and an Arbroath Smokie is Haddock. )
I stayed at a local pub/hotel and had the fish for breakfast before a wedding. I was there with my then husband and two good friends, a lovely couple. The boys had gone to primary school with the groom before he’d moved to Scotland.
The bride was the groom’s first cousin. I’m not judging, but it is noteworthy. I didn’t realise that was legal. I recall a massive punch-up between the bride’s father and the groom’s father, who were also brothers. One of them disapproved apparently.
Anyway, the kippers, or smokies, were magic.
Now, all I have is a memory of a boney old fish, and, bizarrely, I miss it.
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