from Friday, June27th of the year2008.
So, tonight I ate at a venerable old seafood restaurant in the West End of London. I had Jellied Eels to start, which is something that despite my proclivities, I have never yet eaten before. Various sources report on the phenomenon:
This dish, either delicious or disgusting, depending on your point of view, finds its roots in the muddy Thames estuary, which is a good habitat for eels. They were easy to catch locally, and it was easy to keep them alive in barrels for long enough to bring them to market, so the supply was easier than that of other kinds of fish. They were common, cheap and easily transportable, making them a favourite in the East End. Unlike oysters, which were once a cheap and common sight in the East End, jellied eels haven’t gained a widespread popularity. source
Another somewhat amazing and simultaneously horrifying source reports that:
When David Beckham moved to Real Madrid in 2003, what was it about England he admitted to missing the most? The clothes shops? The hairdressers? No “” it was good old jellied eels.
Now, beloved, I will tell you: there is nothing to miss in England about the Clothes Shops. However, check this out from the Guardian:
Brighton fish sellers are reporting a 50% increase in sales and there is anecdotal evidence of people taking them to the opera.
EXCUSE ME? Somebody please source me this information. What is “anecdotal evidence?” Is this somebody calling up the Guardian, talking about, “Ooh, girl, I just seen the Qadaffi opera at the ENO, and this matronly lady next to me, her ass was eating a dish (?) of JELLIED EELZ and it was off the chain. Somebody need to get her a finger bowl up in this motherfucker.”
The moral of the story is that it was delicious. I’m not sure that I really understood the technique behind eating them ““ presumably, you’re meant to fish out the Eel Segment and then put it in your mouth, eating the skin and the flesh, and discarding the central bone? This eel, you see, is not the filet of una-don to which we are all accustomed, but rather, horizontal slices through the body of the entire Eel.
I am particularly excited because yesterday, I ate at my Second Favorite Restaurant on Earth, that being, St John Bread and Wine, the Big Girl St John being closed for renowations this summer. My friend Thomas and I both agree that these restaurants fill one with such a sense of well-being and goodness that…there is no end to the clause. St John is a whole lifestyle: check out this page for evidence of this. If you don’t get it, it’s probably not for you. Or, barring that, try this page, and see if you begin to experience the pleasuresz.
Anyway, I went with my friend Jaffer, and we ate smoked eels, a delicious plate of brawn (head cheese, but thickly sliced, and cold, unlike the Mario Batali warm and thinslice version available in New York “” very satisfying), which is pictured at left, and then we ate what I think is one of the most delicious things I have ever consumed: a veal neck for two. Now, I have eaten every weird pig, uh…ear, back, and crack that there is to eat, but never have I eaten a veal’s neck. It was: unspeakably good. What we are discussing is a huge pile of veal, articulated on the edges by little brackets of burnt fat and flesh, with the central section being a gradient from dark, BBQ-looky pulled pork zones, to light pink babyflesh zones. I didn’t get a chance to photograph it because J”” and I consumed it like animals.
A few things about London: My luggage did not get set on fire and sent to Milan, despite the fact that I flew into Terminal 5. I still did have to walk about a mile through slightly more corporate terminals. I gave myself the gift of a full oyster card the last time I was here, as well as a 9/10 full Café Costa Loyalty Card, so I got a free (and miraculously not bitter) coffee this morning, as well as a granola bar which was held together with robin spit or something; it dissolved all over Soho as I ate it. This morning I walked through London’s Chinatown. I was simultaneously bored to tears by how clean and small it was ““ like, you could fit the whole thing into my building ““ as well as so happy to hear somebody screaming in Chinese before 8:00 AM. I sense, however, a real dominance of old-school chop suey peking duck lunch special style eating; this is something you see in non-major-city America, but not in a huge capital. I want London to have some deep, dark, messed up Chinatown like in Queens, where you can buy parts of the cuttlefish you wish you had never heard of, plus thousand year egg. Here, the best thing they have is the 18 pound egg they’re trying to get me to sign up for to eat for breakfast tomorrow, served on a bed of organic greens. Zzzzz.
Also: they have a Whole Foods here which is the most expensive thing I have ever even thought about.
Also: I have tired out my brain thinking about how expensive the Whole Foods is here. I am going to watch bootleg episodes of Weeds and pretend it isn’t happening.
In other “culinary” news, you can watch me cook some cauliflower and broccoli rabe and chickpeas for The Fader magazine. I was sort of blindsided because, see, I agreed to cook for them on video, and then they informed me that the interviewer was vegetarian. I’ve had, like, two vegetarians in my house ever, and it hasn’t ever ended well: tears, whimpering, accusations. Is it even called cooking without the sizzle of fat on a griddle? I suppose butter counts, and butter they got! I secretly put so much butter in that broccoli rabe; it was poached in butter. I should have secretly rubbed some sausage up on that, but I had an Compunction (only one, but if you pronounce it with four syllables, it feels more legitimate).
I am holding in my hand a $6 bottle of sparkling water from my room’s minibar. The sun needs to set on the pound ahora mismo or I am going to go bankrupt.
June 27th, 2008 at 10:12 pm
Nico Muhly = David Beckham.
June 28th, 2008 at 12:33 am
Thank you for reminding people that vegetables must be cooked in Salted Water.
June 28th, 2008 at 11:30 am
All this eel talk reminds me of this:
June 29th, 2008 at 5:21 am
Dear Nico, I laughed my arse off reading this. Brilliant – especially the robin spit aside. I’ve just bought Mothertongue and am loving it. So thanks.
June 29th, 2008 at 8:04 am
Nico Muhly; jellied eels:
now we know just how he feels
June 29th, 2008 at 6:27 pm
I do miss the Clothes Shops of Olde England. I’m so tired of the flip-flop culture of L.A.
June 29th, 2008 at 6:28 pm
I however do NOT miss jellied eels, head cheese, et al. Yeurgh!
July 1st, 2008 at 6:37 am
man you have so much st john love – but what’s yr fav restaurant if bread+wine is yr 2nd favourite?? or does that just mean that ‘the big girl’ is yr favourite.
also: cant believe i’ve now lived in london for 2 years + have never had jellied eels. for shame.
July 1st, 2008 at 5:04 pm
The British Chinatown you seek is, I believe, in Liverpool.
July 2nd, 2008 at 8:05 am
i’ve lived in london 3 years now and haven’t got past looking at the jellied eels with a little shudder of horror. i have yet to try real eel though, so perhaps i am excused. it’s on the list. i will contemplate the jellied sort again if real eel goes well.
we go to whole foods every now and then – walk about for half an hour smelling the cheese room, snacking on the samples, then we leave. sometimes we invest in some small grocery item. it makes for a nice interlude if you don’t look at the prices too closely 🙂
July 2nd, 2008 at 10:44 pm
“Uncle Fred Flits By” is a superb story by P.G. Wodehouse that concerns an eel-jellier.
November 6th, 2009 at 3:11 pm
i’m trying to find how to kill and cook jellied eel.
I have a very live eel in my kitchen sink
and defore it dead and starts to rot i need to know how to cook jellied eel.
Please help. Time 20-05hrs on the 6/11/09.