Billingsgate Fish Market
Billingsgate Market (Trafalgar Way, Poplar, London E14 5ST), say all the publicity, is the United Kingdom’s largest inland fish market. It is easily accessible by bus and DLR. There is a seafood training school onsite, the Billingsgate Seafood School where you can gain fishmongering skills and also learn how to make sushi from Feng Sushi’s Silla Bjerrumis. An opportunistic seal called Sammy resides in the waters just off the market.
Tsukiji Fish Market it was not. On Saturday morning, the wet floor teemed with a mess of both restauranteurs and Joe Public eager to get a good price for seafood, and also, camera-wielding tourists commenting on how it was not Tsukiji. Old clothes and waterproof footwear were the best gear for the occasion, and a ear out for warning cries of the porters shouting “mind your feet!” essential to avoid having ankles bruised by the heavy pallet trucks and trolleys pushing past.
The experienced came with marketing trolleys, not just because of the weight of the produce but also because bus-drivers have been known to refuse entry to people openly carrying raw seafood – for fear that the lingering fishy smell would affect other passengers. The marketing trolleys had to be left outside the main entrance.
Inside, fish and other seafood were laid out in styrofoam boxes. Because this was a wholesale market, some stalls only sold fish by the box. And certainly, there were no fishmongers to scale, clean, cut or otherwise prepare the fish for anyone, though some fish was sold already cleaned. On offer were mackerel, salmon, tilapia, catfish, milk fish, seabass, emperor fish, rohu fish, hara hara (?), plaice, stockfish; smoked fish from Scandinavia, and salted fish to cater to those from the African and Caribbean cultures,
live piles of oysters, crabs, scallops in their shells, winkles…
Since only a few people would be over for dinner that night (vs the housemate’s need to feed 20), I purchased a modest amount of scallops for £5 a dozen and 4 salmon heads for £1. Not being at all familiar with Chinese cuisine, fell back on the Asian food I understand most – pseudo-Japanese. The misomayo hotate was very well-received, accompanied by buckwheat noodles in steaming kombu miso soup.
The grilled salmon heads, with their crisp exterior, meaty front collar, and tender cheeks, were not quite as well-liked – because they resembled (they were!)… real fish…
We have been thinking about what it means to live for God – yes, there is the being obedient to specific commandments and also standing firm in one’s evidence-based faith, not being ashamed of Jesus because Jesus has already brought believers into his kingdom and because if we are ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us on the last day. But what do we do that isn’t merely reactive? The working hypothesis (possibly the same vein as my frugal nasty-bits-diet-in-preparation-for-mission-to-supermarketless-lands policy, though not stemming therefrom) is to make the most of the situations (whether good or bad, humanly-speaking) God has placed us in, and of the gifts and character God has given us, to make God’s work in Jesus known to all – for surely that is what gives God the most glory.