Saxon Shores

Well, Dearies …
We are now back from a week in North Germany. Mostly in Wolfenbüttel, where we found ourselves entirely surrounded by halftimbered houses and flowering lilac. One of those conferences where about half those present were old and valued friends, and moreover, the Professor and I had the use of a sort of rococo cottage ornée once inhabited by Lessing the playwright: most of this is a museum, but some of it has been made into accommodation for the Herzog August Bibliothek’s more fortunate visitors. This is, apart from all other considerations, blessedly convenient, merely a hop and a skip from a sort of gigantic strawberry pudding with whipped cream on top which was once the Herzog’s very swanky armoury, and is now the reading-room, etc. of the aforesaid HAB. We were thus able to have people over, and generally have fun. The last day of the conference coincided with the Northern Professor’s birthday, and our hosts rose magnificently to the occasion. A moment of true Northern Pastoral, with the lilac and flowering horse-chestnut nodding over the walls of an enclosed garden; a table spread with white linen, a small garden-temple, sekt and sausages, cheese and creamy cakes; one of those moments when the well fed and happy sound, collectively, like a bright little river running over stones, a merry babble.
Once it was all over, the German Guests of last year collected us and took us to Hamburg where, for the time being, they live; introduced us to their perfectly enchanting cats, and on Sunday, took us for a huge town-walk. The sort which involves having a day card and leaping on and off public transport when it seems sensible. Inevitably, we took out the Kunsthalle in the morning (I will leave it to the Northern Professor to rhapsodise about Kaspar David Friedrich; but will pause to record the boys on their stunt-bikes: there is an area of open plaza where they wheel like gulls, identically dressed in black, each swinging around his fastmoving centre of gravity with birdlike grace, an art exhibition in themselves). Then we took a ferry down the Elbe past the mighty container-port and the ships the size of aircraft carriers, convoyed by tugs, moving with the ponderous dignity of brontosaurus, and got off at a sort of riverine pleasure-beach, where the walk really started: there is a row of the most beautiful, pleasantly detailed jugendstil houses, a bit up from the actual beach area, all white paint and verandas, like the Moomin books. After that, we walked along the Elbchaussée, a sort of Millionaire’s Row, a leafy street of white palazzi and good modern design. One which took our fancy for sheer incongruity was a sort of presidential mansion: a semicircle of white columns rose to support a central balcony whose use, surely, was for some gold-braid-encrusted individual in a white uniform to emerge and announce the 27th Republic. After all that walking, we ended up in a café where we were served with cake portions the size of bricks, and took a bus home. Most of our (meaning the NP’s and my) perceptions of Germany are founded either on the Rhineland or on the South; it has to be said, the North is more fun.
After all that, we came home, to complete chaos. We had left a plumber and a joiner (both it might be added, notorious dope heads) with instructions to sand down, and revarnish our bedroom and the Professor’s wunderkammer, and to revamp our bathroom, which had had a bit of an accident recently involving tracing some Geordie malfeasance to its source. One. They decided whit-thae-hell, they’d do his study as well. Then the sander turned out not to have the right sort of sandpaper. Then the plumber was called away on urgent business. The Real World Consultant, who ended up as referee, poor sod, told us by email that it was serious, handbags at dawn, stuff. Then he was called away on urgent business himself (turning Old Trafford pink with moody lighting, as it happens. I am not making this up) and left them to it. We returned, after a satisfying but really quite tiring week, to find all the contents of all four rooms were distributed over the rest of the top floor, our bed was piled high with temporarily stashed plumbing and there was a strong air of ‘the job’s 85% done’. It is to be hoped that it will all sort out by the weekend, when I will have three dinner parties and a houseguest.
However, one of the other things which has clearly happened in our absence is Politics. We went up to the neighbours’ to collect Miss Dog and ended up with Best Friend as well; I had certain reservations about this, because poor Miss Cat seemed really quite stressed; she is a faithful little soul and loathes her people going away, and this combined with all the furniture in funny places and horrible chemical smells was clearly a bit much. But … and the thing to stress is that for the last year, whenever Miss Best Friend has lolloped in, Miss Cat has run upstairs to hide in the attic … while we were eating, Miss C strolled downstairs with a ‘who’s going to make my day?’ slow swagger, while Miss BF hid her nose under the Professor’s chair, and quaked. Even the slow of thinking, and by God, we were slow of thinking last night, what with one thing and another, caught on after a bit. Miss Cat is now clear that she has both dogs just where she wants them. Oh, and the freezer is full of trout, love gifts from the Apparitional Gamekeeper. I hereby solicit trout recipes from all and sundry, starting with the German Guests.

7 Responses to “Saxon Shores”

  1. The German Guest Says:

    Here it comes: For two almond trouts (or trout?) you’ll need half a lemon, salt, pepper, 2 table spoons of flour, 40g butter, and 40g sliced almonds (if that’s what you call it. It’s almond leaves in German…). Clean the fish, salt and pepper the in- and the outside, also put lemon juice on it. Turn in flour and fry every side in butter for 5 minutes in mild heat. Then take the fish out and keep heated in the oven, and fry the almonds in the same frying pan. Then either turn the trout in them or put the almonds on with a spoon. Serve with potatoes, rice etc.

    and here’s another one: filled trout. You’ll need (for two) salt, pepper, half a lemon, a red and a green pepper, garlic, an onion, 20g butter, 150g crème fraîche, parsley, and what we call “edelsüß paprika” (sorry, couldn’t find a translation). Salt, pepper, lemon in- and outside. Cut the peppers, fry together with garlic and cut onion. Add 100g of crème fraîche. Spice with salt, pepper, paprika. Add parsley. Fill trout with part of the vegetables. Place in an oven form, add the rest of the vegetables. Put remaining crème fraîche on the fish. Bake for 30 minutes at 200 degrees. Serve with potatoes.
    Have fun!

  2. jill Says:

    There is always a first time! A simple method for using up bountiful gifts of trout.

  3. jill Says:

    There is a first time for everything.

    An easy way to use up generous gifts of fresh trout would be this simple methoed. Dust 4 trout lightly in flour, salt and pepper with a dash of tarragon.Melt 2 oz of butter in good quality frying pan Let butter foam and then fry fish gently 5 minutes on either side or until skin is golden Remove from pan. Bring remaining juices back up and let them brown. Add juice of one lemon and a handfull of chopped parsley which then gets poured over the trout. A personal note. My father used to call my mother “old trout” which I always construed as weird but loving, something that long time mates might say . Little did I know ! Checking the OED this morning I discover that trout can mean-a confidential friend or a servant or, and more ominously, a woman, esp. an old ill tempered one. “old Trout” as a slang derogatroy from the 19th century. Food for thought!

  4. FJS Says:

    Start building the smokehouse, if nothing else the joiner and the plumber will have somewhere to go…

  5. Edwin E. Smith Says:

    Sometimes the best things are also the simplest. The only way to eat trout is to bake it in aluminum foil. Spread margarine on the foil to keep the trout from sticking, salt and pepper the trout inside and out, put a couple small slices of onion in the cavity and sprinkle the fish with just a little bit of brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees. It won’t take long. I like to have rice with this try cooking your rice in a mixture of one part chicken stock and one part dry white wine and see if you don’t think it’s heavenly.

  6. Eleanor Says:

    Here’s a Michigan twist on the aluminum foil suggestion; best cooked on a sandy beach. Make an aluminum foil boat for each fillet. In each foil boat place the fish, a thin sliced red potatoe or two, a couple slices of sweet onion, a handful of yellow niblet corn, a few sprigs of parsley, dash of salt and pepper. Cook on a driftwood fire on a sandy beach. Yum!

  7. The Canadian Professor Says:

    I have been to Hamburg only once. In the company of an Alsatian I arrived in a sort of stretched limo, the property of the American Embassy in Bonn. The Alsatian’s brilliant alternative to hitchhiking in Europe was tapping the network of American embassies and consulates. We tried to look furtive when a driver collected us outside a mildly downmarket inn, but waved regally on the way. In Hamburg we realized that we had only five dollars left between us, and a 6 day stretch on a German freighter. We thought this was fun, but our penury made the other passengers nervous. We refused all offers, although we were tempted, when the ship put us all off in Quebec City instead of Montreal. I broke down (not in tears) and called my family in the US, realizing only as the nobody is home signal rattled, that it was Labor Day weekend and they were on Cape Cod. How can I have forgotten how we got from there to Toronto? I have, but I know that we did it on the $5.

    Nobody brings me trout, rabbits, pigeons. They know better. pat

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