Anorak News | A Batter Way

A Batter Way

by | 16th, November 2006

IN Charles-Marie-Georges Huysmans Against Nature, the book’s only character, Duc Jean des Esseintes, experiences the exotic by remaining in his Paris home and bringing the foreign within.

You can do the same today. Television makes it easy. You can see polar ice-caps melting and hear David Attenborough, what one reviewer calls the “stand-in voice of God”, describing the view in rich, elegiac tones.

You do not always need the telly. You can experience the obedience of German culture via your washing machine, the drama of Italy in your will-it-start won’t-it-start Alpha Romeo and the best bits of France in a glass of wine.

Today even the mundane can become exotic. And we read in the Times that the humble Scottish prawn is to go on a journey.

Of course, the prawn is no such thing, having been branded as a Francophile langoustine. But whatever the pretensions of the glorified sea insect, it is all set to go on holiday.

The Times says that Young’s, the seafood company, is to ship the shellfish from the west coast of Scotland to Thailand. The catch will experience rough seas, cross the Tropic of Cancer and be exposed to foreign cultures.

Indeed, instead of being blasted by jets of water, as occurs at the firm’s processing plant in Annan, near Dumfries, the langoustines will be shelled by hand. According to those in the know, this handling produces a superior scampi, or langoustine.

And, coincidentally, it is cheaper. As the Telegraph says, it is understood Thai workers are paid about 25p an hour, while processing workers in Scotland earn £6 an hour.

So from this February, the company will ship around 600 tonnes of langoustines/scampi/sea insects to Bangkok for shelling. The fish will then be returned to Scotland for breading and packaged as “Scottish Island” scampi. The total journey is 12,000 miles.

And not everyone is as exited as the Thai-bound fish, or as Mike Mitchell, Young’s “director of scampi”. He says the decision to relocate the shelling operation, at a cost of 120 jobs, was “extremely difficult”.

Duncan McLaren, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, says the transportation will “cost the earth”. He talks of carbon dioxide emissions and such like. What Young’s saves in wages it exceeds in the price paid by the planet, says he.

And John Holroyd, of the T&G union, says the job cuts are devastating and the use of Thai workers to remove shells is “the politics of the absurd”.

It might be. But think how exotic it is to have such a well-travelled dinner companion. And how much better life would be if your dinner date was as worldly-wise as your evening shrimp a la mode…

Posted: 16th, November 2006 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink