Sea Gastronomy, by Michael O’Meara.
What do you feel about Sweaty Betty for Friday night?
Would you know what to do with a Witch?
Would a Grenadier ring your bell?
Is a Lumpsucker ugly, or is it actually cute?
Quizzically and delightedly making my way through the 450 pages of Michael O’Meara’s epic book, Sea Gastronomy, these were just a few of the questions I asked myself, in between wondering if I would roast or steam a Beryx, what might I do with a Bluemouth, and pondering how on earth the Smooth Hound is also known as both Sweet William, and Stinkard.
Sea Gastronomy is a magnum opus, and a lifetime’s work. All that Mr O’Meara has learnt in 15 years of running Oscar’s Seafood Bistro, with his wife, Sinead, is to be found between these covers – the fact that the monkfish listed on your menu is mis-named; that the muscle bands of the black sea cucumber taste like razor clam; how to make turbot roe taramasalata; that salted ling brandade works beautifully with Connemara dry-cured ham. He has an ocean of knowledge to impart to us, and he does so with modesty and certainty, telling the stories of almost 115 varieties of fish and shellfish.
Best of all, Mr O’Meara tells us exactly what to do with these jewels from the waters, so Sea Gastronomy performs the vital task of demystifying the very thing that should be the backbone of our national cuisine. You only need to buy this book to know that Sweaty Betty is a great bet for a Friday night dinner date, not to mention exactly how to deal with a Witch. It might seem paradoxical to describe a book about fish and shellfish as a landmark book, but that is exactly what Michael O’Meara’s Sea Gastronomy is: a landmark in Irish food publishing.
Sea Gastronomy is published by Artisan House at €30.