Thursday 27 May 2010

Mock Fish

Advanced skills are elementary skills, just as the greatest joys are the simplest ones. During my many discussions with my friend Hashimoto Touru about Japanese cuisine, he has pointed out that the high art of Japanese Kaiseki cuisine is based on good old fashioned home cooking. Food was prepared to be served to the master of the house and guests, and certain homes became renowned for their hospitality. As more guests came to these homes with gifts, these homes became more prepared for greeting those guests, and so in time places which specialised in hospitality emerged. That is the root of the hospitality industry, and I think that holds true in any culture.

Pottery emerged in a similar fashion from the need for vessels in the home in ancient times, and as different families began to specialize in particular trades, so too pottery became a profession. Perhaps not the oldest, but fairly close!

I began potting when I was about 14, working part time in studios near my home. Even then functional pottery was what I wanted most to do, and it was the lifestyle and the humanistic nature of the art that interested me most. When I was young I found myself in a position where I needed to question conventional values and find answers that would help me achieve my potential. Pottery allowed me to explore art, science and philosophy, while building my physical strength and dexterity, all in collaboration with the basic forces of nature, and then to give that a form that was beautiful and functional, communicating my feelings to others in an intimate way. It is a career that continues to be challenging and from which I will never retire, and the pots that I make will hopefully bring joy to generations to come.

I have been working with chefs since the '90s, and it began with my desire for my pots to be used and to improve the quality and practicality of my work. In order to make good pots one must know how to use them, so I have always enjoyed cooking and serving food on my work. I am not, however a professional chef, and felt that I needed the input of a professional chef. I also needed to "test drive" the results, so the collaborations began. I love the process of making and firing the work, the preparation and serving of the food, and the ultimate enjoyment of sharing a meal with those I love.

There have been many challenges along the way, not the least of which has been trying to gain the understanding both of the public and my family and friends that pottery is an Art and a Career, not just a glorified hobby. Working with chefs and sharing my vessels in a restaurant atmosphere has been a wonderful opportunity to help that understanding, and the photographs of the work with food have helped to communicate that idea. However, I started to find people saying that the food they cook at home could not do justice to the pottery, and was incomparable to the cuisine served by professional chefs.

Which brings me back to my original point, that even the best of cuisine is based on the simplest of origins; enjoying food in the home with the people you love. One of my favourite meals in all the world is a simple dish that my Mum used to make called Mock Fish. It is made from potatoes mainly, and I have memories of Mum making batch after batch while my brothers and I devoured them with lashings of tomato relish. So when a friend brought me some home grown spuds, onions and tomatoes the other day, and eggs were cheap, I cooked up a batch, and served them with a sprig of dill from the garden. I took a photo of it and that has been at the top of my blog ever since. The simplest of foods, served in the simplest of ways, on hand crafted vessels, enjoyed with the people you love. What could be more nourishing for the body and the spirit?

MOCK FISH (My Version!)

1 Large Onion, diced
5 Eggs
80g Plain Flour
1 Level Teaspoons of Salt
1 Level Teaspoon of White Pepper
5ml White Vinegar
1kg Finely Grated Potato
Olive Oil to Shallow fry

Add the ingredients to a large bowl in the order shown, and mix each potato into the mixture as it is grated. This will avoid the potato oxidizing and turning brown. When thoroughly mixed, fry 100ml dollops of mixture on medium heat for three minutes each side till golden brown. Serve as shown in the photo, sandwiched with a slice of fresh tomato and a sprig of fennel, or with lashings of tomato relish. They're really nice cold too!   


  1. Sounds great, Euan. I wonder where the fish reference comes from.

  2. The name is veiled in mystery Hollis, though the texture and colour is not unlike fried white fish. My family have (among other things) some Irish ancestry, and I suspect that the source of the name lies there. It is very common in Australia, where many an irish immigrant sought their fortune in generations past!

  3. I came across your blog googling Wabi Sabi and since then I have been very pleased with the variety that you post. Keep up the good work. I am definitely a fan.I also love the food experiences you provide. :)

  4. Your posts are always thought provoking and quite inspiring - thank you!

  5. Thanks Angelia and Lisa,
    I'm glad that the thoughts I share on my blog are of use in other peoples lives. Writing things down and sharing them with others can help us clarify our own thoughts and feelings as well, and I thank you for sharing in my journey.
    All the best.

  6. I think making vessels to be used in the the home as part of everyday day life is a great honour and a very powerful way to connect artists to society. Not every artist can claim that their works would be seen and touched thousands of times. Once a pot goes home with someone it is the beginning of a profound and often enduring relationship between artist and user.