When I landed in New York for the first time, Helene Valentin, a french artist who had immigrated to the Big Apple years before, gave me the lowdown on the best of the best.
“When you want to feast on great fish, it’s no problem, just get yourself to Chinatown. There are lots of fabulous fish markets. The Chinese adore fish and believe me, they demand the freshest of the fresh.”
That was about 30 years ago and I have to say that, 30 years ago it was true.
Today, all of that has changed. I’ve marched from one end of Chinatown to the other and checked out every single shop… the oder is so unbearable that without a good dose of opium I would never have the strength to enter those doors to hell.
So, goodbye codfish and so long mackerel… bye-bye squid and prawns. And damn all those bloody swines of fish peddlers (as you can see I’m really mad).
It’s a far cry from the market in France at Barjac (Gard). There you’ll find the most charming guy who sells the best cheese in the world and there, reigning behind her stand, the beautiful Carole.
And even more beautiful is what is before her. Oysters pulled from their bed that same morning and mussels… what mussels; you can eat them as they are, raw… it’s god in person that trickles down your throat!
But that’s not all. Get this, Carole is married to the fisherman, they are by the lagoon of Thau all the way down the map near Bouzigues. And the fish that this lovely lady sells at the market… it is her great gentleman who fishes for them, on a line, the old fashioned way… a line wrapped around a piece of cork. No dynamite, no bleach, and no trolling net. No sir! Just the fishing line pulled in by hand! “Because” Carole whispers to me “they are so much better that way!” And she adds: “I often go out with my husband on his fishing boat… it’s so fabulous!”
What, you think I’m a little jealous of her husband the fisherman? You better believe it my friend… and not just a little!
Here, take a peek at the magnificent sea bass that she’s holds proudly; is that a magnificent fish or what? And Carole… is she not magnificent, my fishmonger?
So, my chinese gentlemen in Chinatown, don’t waste a minute, just pack it in, close up shop. You dear gentlemen of Chinatown, next to Carole you don’t exist. NEVER AGAIN WILL I TALK TO YOU, NEVER AGAIN WILL I EVEN LOOK AT YOU: PRAXIS VOMITUS!
PS: Here is a recipe for Carole’s mussels (an Algerian style recipe given to me by a native).
– Cook the mussels quickly over high heat with a small glass of white wine.
– Without burning your fingers, remove mussels from shells and reserve, save half of the shells as well.
– Lovingly place a mussel in the empty half shell and use a small spoon to fill with sauce, place on a baking sheet.
– sprinkle breadcrumbs over the filled half shell.
– Put in the oven under a hot grill until the sauce bubbles and the breadcrumbs become golden.
– The “SAUCE”: Olive oil, finely chopped garlic (a lot), chopped parsley, powdered cumin AND whole cumin grains, salt and pepper. Mix well.
– Open one (or several) bottles of a well chilled rosé wine, put crusty french bread in a basket, then call the family and the neighbors over for the feast.
-Believe me… THIS IS PARADISE!