Joanne McCarthy: Why doesn't anyone like my favourite recipe

I’M feeling the pressure.

For more than seven decades Colonel Sanders’s recipe of 11 herbs and spices to coat his deep fried chicken has been the best kept secret in Kentucky.

That was until recently, when the Colonel’s nephew found a note in a scrapbook with a tell-tale list of 11 – fairly ordinary, it must be said – herbs and spices, alongside the Colonel’s second wife’s will.

One of the world’s great, enduring foodie mysteries apparently solved.

For more than three decades I’ve kept my secret recipe for Salmon Kipper Royale secure in a place where only the most diabolical torture – say, depriving me of coffee for TWO WHOLE DAYS or forcing me to watch back-to-back episodes of Restaurant Revolution for 24 hours – would get me to reveal it.

But now, with the Colonel’s secret finally out - prompting infectious dancing in the street across the globe - I’m thinking about releasing the secrets behind my signature dish to an unsuspecting world.

That’s the kind of generous-hearted foodie that I am. For too long I’ve feasted on the clever blend of a can of salmon and a can of kippers, astoundingly mixed with rice, tomatoes and other stuff that constitutes the “royale” section of its name, but it’s time the world was able to share my joy.

My three sons, of course, have advised caution.

“There’s a reason why Puddy [my cat] likes it,” said my youngest son, 28, when we talked about how Salmon Kipper Royale has remained an enduring staple in my kitchen, down through the ages.

“Kippers are crap,” he concluded.

This from a foodie snob who’s going through a ramen phase – “And isn’t everyone?” he sniffs – that has included sweating his way through a restaurant version featuring his body weight in pork shoulder, pork belly and something called tare, which he described as thick, sweet soy sauce.

And he has the hide to scoff at kippers.

My middle son, 29, who used to be a chef until the hours killed his social life so he switched to being a carpenter, said he’d be happy to have the recipe.

Me: “Really? That’s great, honey. You wouldn’t have to stick rigidly to the recipe. I’d want you to add your own ingredients, to make Salmon Kipper Royale your own and hand it down to future generations.”

He just looked at me blankly for a few seconds.

“I was going to make it for the dogs. You don’t really expect me to actually eat it?” he said.

So I tried again.

My eldest son owns a cafe, and is an adventurous cook at home. Not long ago he arrived at my house with a pile of mysterious bags, and an hour or so later a spectacular mussel and pasta dish appeared.

But offered the chance to introduce Salmon Kipper Royale to his repertoire, he also just looked at me blankly for a few seconds before noting that he had never, ever, EVER, used kippers in a recipe, and never, ever would.

Such is the fate of a really avant garde foodie like myself. My kippers are just ahead of their time.

I owe my cooking talents – as well as Salmon Kipper Royale I can also make cheese and ham toasted sandwiches when pushed – to my mother, who spent decades cooking for a family of 13.

That has to take its toll.

Many years ago I wrote about the night Mum decided to present tripe to her family, an event that has gone down in McCarthy family history as the First Tripe War. There were no survivors.

Okay. Fine. We did survive it, but barely had those rubbery, white slabs of animal guts hit the plate than the bodies started falling around the dining table.

Okay. Fine. We did survive it, but barely had those rubbery, white slabs of animal guts hit the plate than the bodies started falling around the dining table.

“Yuuuukkkkk!”; “What is that?”; “I’m not eating that,”; “That’s revolting,”; “I want a sandwich,”; “Can I have Coco Pops instead?” about sums up the responses of her children, as we pulled faces, poked at the tripe and generally gave the impression Mum had tried to kill us, rather than serve up offal.

We didn’t eat that night.

This all happened years ago but I have memories of a stand-off, with Mum insisting it was tripe or nothing, her children choosing nothing, and my father being left with the lot. I don’t think anyone in the family has allowed tripe to darken his or her door again, which just goes to show the enduring consequences of trying to introduce offal into your children’s diet.

My local library has a large selection of food and cooking books. Buried between The Hot Sauce Cookbook, The Chia Cookbook and Freeze and Easy, is a book called Bebe Gourmet, promising “100 French-inspired baby food recipes for raising an adventurous eater”.

And as I thumbed through its lavishly illustrated pages, I realised where I went wrong.

If only I’d made my children “Tuna nicoise with thyme semolina”, “Chicken tagine with raisins”, “Sea bass with fennel and green grapes” (I didn’t make that up) and “Sole with zucchini and fava beans” (or that), maybe they’d be embracing kippers now.

The library has a book called The Australian Women’s Weekly Recipes to Remember, with the kind of dishes some of us had in our childhood. I turned the pages and thought, no, I don’t remember having “Warm Lebanese bread with minted labne salad”, or “Zucchini flower and tomato frittata”, or “Sticky maple pork sausages”.

And then I saw a photo and the memories came flooding back – canned peas. Add instant potato and Fish Fingers and it’s heaven on a plate.

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