I was in Fillmore, California, a little way inland from Ventura, and I’d eaten some potato skins (above) at a sports bar named Central Station, and afterwards we wandered down to an antique store that had a great selection of paper items, menus and postcards, including this one of a Manx kipper, sent from Douglas in the Isle of Man, to a Mrs. F. L. Peavey in Chicago, on August 10th 1907.
As I’ve said elsewhere, I think there’s nothing better than a good kipper when you’re in the mood, and Alan Davidson, one of my favorite food writers, called one of his books A Kipper With My Tea. In the title essay Davidson is extremely snippy about the vinegar bore and the olive oil bore but insists that “without becoming a kipper-bore ... one can exercise a certain discrimination.” He says that he’s particularly fond of the kippers made by the Robson family in Craster, in Northumberland.
He writes, “We certainly enjoyed the Craster kippers, but what really held our attention there was an extraordinarily cheap piece of real estate. Perched high on the cliff, looking over the tiny harbor and the North Sea – a really amazing view - was a small cottage going for a song. When we heard about the song we started having fantasies about a second home in Craster, writing inspired by the view, kippers every day, and so on. But then a neighbor enlightened us. The cottage had been part of the kippering complex and its stone walls were so deeply impregnated with herring oil that that no known technique could remove the overpowering smell.”
I can see why you mightn’t buy a place like that, but I reckon I can think of worse food smells.
The Robson family is still very much in the kipper business. There website is here: http://www.kipper.co.uk