The reasons why people enjoy fishing often have very little to do with fish. As chef and restaurateur Mark Hix outlines in the introduction to Hooked: Adventures in Angling & Eating, it’s a social affair, a chance to “cook and have a laugh with the boys”, as well as an excuse to buy an endless run of tackle, flies, rods and gadgets. However, I would add one more to his list – as much as fishing is about anything, it is about telling stories.
Humans have been recalling their battles with beasts for at least 15,000 years, and while camera phones have made it easier to provide proof that the monster catch you picked up did, in fact, exist, storytelling is still a key part of the hobby.
There are 50 recipes attached to Hix’s anecdotes throughout the book, from the queen scallops provided by a friend’s mother to be eaten on the playground at school to the mahi-mahi sashimi he made for new friends after landing the fish in the Bahamas. Each example gives the recipe a rich context while justifying their simplicity – these are dishes designed to be eaten on the banks of the water, where the kitchen consists of a barbecue and a skillet.
With sections split by regions of the UK and Ireland, the text is laced with a host of industry names, such as Hix’s fishing buddy Robin Hutson of the Lime Wood and Home Grown Hotels groups and seafood aficionado Mitch Tonks.
Hooked is so many things: a celebration of a hobby, of friends, of food and of the diverse waterways and coastlines of the UK, not to mention the rest of the world. In the afterword Hix returns to Ireland for just one more story – the first time he caught a salmon in the country, the latest in a long line of firsts stretching back a little under half a century ago to his childhood in the West Bay, landing his first catch for his grandmother to cook up. The breathlessness of his retelling, on top of his need to add just one more tale to the book after sending off his manuscript, is indicative of the passion that runs throughout – an instinctive need to impart stories of friends, family and fish.
Hooked: Adventures in Angling & Eating by Mark Hix (Mitchell Beazley, £20)
• Try the recipe for barracuda and pineapple ceviche from the book here