Writing-related recipes: A Retired Pirate’s Fish Chowder

This has nothing to do with the manga project, but we are hoping to get some pages completed by the end of the year. We’ll post a couple when we do. And now for your irregularly scheduled digression …

Years ago, I began creating a recipe for each Torrie book. (Which reminds me that I still haven’t done one for Dragonslayers.) These are all up on my website, but it occurred to me people might like to see them here as well. Over the next week or so, I’m going to be posting all three of Torrie’s recipes to date. If I get really ambitious, I’ll come up with one for Dragonslayers too. Hmm … needs to involve goat cheese and/or brook trout … and a turnip, because, as Torrie said, humans need their vegetables.

I don’t like turnip.

Anyway, to start off, here is the first of the Torrie recipes: Mister Flytch’s Fish Chowder, from Torrie and the Pirate-Queen. Mister Flytch, you recall, is a retired pirate, first mate on the Shrike after Anna defeats him in a duel, reclaims the ship, and sets out to rescue her father from the Pirate Queen of the Granite Isles.

Mister Flytch’s Fish Chowder
A recipe by Torrie

You might remember that when I first met the retired pirates of the Shrike, they were busy gutting fish. We ate a lot of fish chowder on that adventure. Of course, most of the fish was salted so it wouldn’t go nasty, and the chowder was made with salt fish. But I got very tired of salt fish chowder, so here’s Mister Flytch’s recipe for chowder using fresh fish instead.

First, go to sea and catch some fish. Or you could buy some at the market, of course. Cod, sole, halibut, haddock — these are the sorts of fish the pirates used, nice firm white-fleshed fish. For the modern human, a block of frozen Boston Bluefish or pollock, or a tin of chicken haddie, works nicely. And you don’t have to gut it, which helps keep the deck of your ship clean. Your fish should be in small, boneless pieces. Nobody likes finding bones in their chowder.
Peel some potatoes, a good double handful of them or more if you have small hands, and chop them up. Peel and chop up an onion. Dump the potatoes, the onion, some parsley if you have any, and the fish, into a big pot. Add just enough water to cover it, put a lid on, and simmer until the fish is cooked and the potatoes are tender. Add salt to taste and lots of pepper and a dollop of butter.
Add some cream or whole milk. This can be tricky if you’re at sea. Mirimick told me that the thing to do if you’re close to land is to row ashore with a pail, sneak into someone’s pasture, find a cow who looks friendly, and help yourself. Personally, I don’t think this is a good idea. It’s stealing, and although we Old Things have a reputation for stealing milk, the truth is we always ask the cow’s permission first. Humans can’t do this, since humans and cows can’t talk to one another. So don’t do it. Just go to the farmhouse and ask. Or buy milk at the market where you bought the fish. Or do what the pirates did when they were making chowder at sea, which was to make chowder without milk. Modern humans, of course, have found a way of keeping milk in tins as well as fish, and evaporated milk is now traditional in fish chowders, even when fresh milk and cream is easy to get.
Humans are funny that way.
Don’t boil your chowder after the milk goes in, because it might curdle. (That’s what Mister Flytch said, anyway.) Just keep it nice and warm. You can add more parsley now, so it will be green and pretty floating on the chowder. Mirimick told Mister Flytch that pirates don’t need to have pretty food. Mister Flytch said that being a pirate was no reason not to cultivate an aesthetic sensibility.
While they were arguing, the rest of us ate the chowder.
Ship’s biscuits, or hardtack, are often eaten with chowder. (It’s a good way to soften the biscuits up.) You can use “flaky pilot biscuits” if you can find them, since these are a nicer version of ship’s biscuit, or just eat your chowder with soda crackers.

© 2006 K.V. Johansen

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About KV Johansen

The author of Blackdog, The Leopard, The Lady, and the forthcoming Gods of Nabban, epic fantasies from Pyr, I also write for teens and children, including the "Torrie", "Warlocks of Talverdin", and "Cassandra Virus" series, and the "Pippin and Mabel" picture books, as well as a couple of short story collections and two works of adult literary criticism on the history of children's fantasy literature. I have a Master's degree in Mediaeval Studies, and read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, and history. Blog at thewildforest.wordpress.com
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