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A true Scottish delicacy, kippers are fresh herring smoked over smouldering oak chips. The result is a delicately flavoured, thick, fleshy fish suitable for a breakfast or brunch treat, or a light supper. They are delicious grilled, broiled or poached.

Kippers in the pan

I know fish is good for me. After all, herring has lots of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids; but, I’m not so sure about Scottish Kippered Herring. Besides the good stuff, they are full of salt, smoke, read carcinogen, and sometimes red dye; who knows what other stuff goes into their preparation. They taste sort of like fresh smoked Indian moccasins on top of slightly rotten herring. But, here is the funny bit. I like them.

I think I know how this happened. You see, my Dad liked kippered herring. He learned to like them during the first World War when he stayed with a Scottish family near Glascow. Once he introduced me to them, he and I used to relish sitting down to a plateful on Saturday mornings, especially during the winter. I think, as a very young lad, they were the first thing I ever learned to cook.

The thing to know about kippers is, when you start frying them, which is, by the way, the best way to cook them, they give up their smoke smell to the room and make it almost intolerable to those that don’t like them. That includes almost everybody. For this reason, it was only Dad and I who were in the kitchen when they were being cooked. Mom would closet herself in the bedroom and refuse to come out until we were finished eating, all the plates and pans washed and dried, and the room vented. This same sort of thing goes on in our house today. When the boys were living at home, they made themselves scarce when I brought out the kippers on a Sunday morning.

I can’t remember why, but on the cold days near Christmas, I’m especially motivated to pick up some kippers. I did so this week and had my feed of them this morning. Good, as always. The kitchen is now vented, the fish skins thrown out in a sealed bag, and the upstairs is again habitable by those who can’t stand the smell.

Clearly, I’m not the only one who still eats kippers. Why else would the grocery stores still carry them? In the UK, especially Scotland, and on the BC west coast, you can find kippers on the breakfast menu at many restaurants. I usually order them and those at the table look at me with wonder, if only because they tried them once and found the taste disgusting. I eat them along with some buttered toast followed up by another Scottish favourite, seville orange marmalade.

Now that I’m finished eating this Scottish ‘delicacy’, I don’t trust that Leslie will appreciate a kiss from me for the rest of the day. Ah, the price we pay for our favourite foods.



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