‘God Is In The Guts’
So said Yoshinori Ishii, the chef showing us the Ikejime method of killing a fish. He paralysed it with a sharp point to the brain, and severed its spine so that its body didn’t get traumatised – the difference is visible to the naked eye; the meat looks entirely different to that of most fish, which suffer and have less firm and flavourful meat as a result.
Mr Ishii is teaching his method by travelling around the world and talking to fishermen – he’s in London as part of Itadakimasu Day, – Itadakimasu means ‘to humbly eat’ – promoted to further understanding of Japanese food culture, and I went along to an old fire station near Tower Bridge to learn more.
He explained the concept of belief that life-force is in all parts of things as well as the things themselves, so every element of the meal must be treated with respect. Leaving no waste at all, he produced four separate, distinctive meals from one single fish. But it’s hard to do that Here.
Shockingly, the only British fish to arrive alive in London is the turbot. When I was a kid we had a chain of wet fish shops across the city called McFisheries, where my mother always bought live fish. They were replaced by the dead hand of the supermarket, and now no-one would know what to do with a live fish in their kitchen.
But it’s a puzzle as to why an island should have such lousy quality fish. Things are changing finally, though, and we’re moving back to the better practices we had before supermarkets ruined our food. But here in the most expensive city in the world good fish come with a high price tag.
The event included a chefs competition and lunch, and the whole thing, including food and unlimited drinks, was free to anyone interested. Where else can you enjoy Wagyu beef and sake for free?
This made me realise just how many interesting hands-on events take place around town, and I’ve resolved to sign up for many others. Mr Ishii has a tough task ahead of him, persuading those who catch our food that there’s a way toward better-tasting, more humane produce – but I hope he realises his dream. He’s heading to Washington next. If you’re near, catch him there.