I never liked fish, until I went to live in Valdez, Alaska, and fish was practically all we had to eat in the summer. I could cook salmon 23 different ways at last count and was quite inventive when it came to halibut, too. I even learned to fillet a fish and got over my squeamishness about blood and guts and scales and slime. I had to be dragged off the beach in clamming season and have been known to eat as many as two dozen digger clams in one sitting. But to my shame, until Swaney took me shrimping one day, I never knew shrimp had eyes. That took some getting used to.
Way back when, as a mere toddler in Waterford, the highlight of the summer would be to go to Dunmore East to choose our mackerel from the fishing trawlers as they tied up at the pier. I was more than a little disturbed when I heard that in Alaska, mackerel were used as bait.
Here in Budapest, since Ocean has closed, there really isn’t any place in town that has good fish all the time (or at least anywhere that I know about) – and truth be told, after years of fishing for my own or enjoying fish so fresh you’d swear it was still breathing, for free, I can’t bring myself to pay high prices for fish that has travelled cross-country to land on my plate.
So, out and about on Saturday, our whole day had but one objective – to end up in Dunabogdány when it was time to eat so that we could have some friss pisztráng (fresh trout) at Siesta Café. Considering they only serve trout, potatoes and salad it still took a while to choose a topping – I finally went with pesto and was delighted to see that they used pine nuts. Thankfully, we went for a half salad/half spuds option as the servings are huge. Open from 12 noon each day to just after 8pm, it’s well worth the journey. It’s on the right, just as you leave the village coming from Budapest. And, if you time it well, you just might catch a game of cricket.
Sitting by the banks of the Danube, having picked my fish clean, still ruminating over Round 1 of the Gift of the Gab, I was reminded of the old Hemingway quote: ‘To me heaven would be a big bull ring with me holding two barrera seats and a trout stream outside that no one else was allowed to fish in and two lovely houses in the town; one where I would have my wife and children and be monogamous and love them.’ Who ever would have thought that I’d be talking about monogamy and trout in a public forum in the same week. You gotta love this country!