As a born and bred landlubber, I have never been enamoured at the sight of ‘fresh fish’ – albeit often frozen – for sale at supermarkets. I am more familiar with the ready crumbed or battered fish that come in brightly coloured boxes, ready to be popped into the oven. My early experiences fishing in the farm dam with my brothers didn’t endear me to fresh fish either: I preferred using yellow mealiemeal ‘pap’ as bait instead of threading earthworms onto the hook; the gutting of the fish was not my favourite occupation – nor did I enjoy scaling the fish. All in all, I have not been groomed to enjoy food from the sea and have tended to regard it all with a degree of suspicion.
Suspicion lurked deep within me when one of our party ordered a fish from one of the Arniston fishermen. Not long after the boats had come in with their morning catch I saw two of them walk up to the house we were staying in, one carrying a long fish by the gills.
“What kind of fish is this?” I asked brightly whilst finding a sack for him to lay the fish onto.
“Dis ‘n Geelstert,” he replied. I have heard of Yellow-tail of course. In fact I can rattle off the names of several fish species if answering a quiz, but don’t ask me to identify them.
He didn’t mind me photographing him at work – I had no idea he would move so quickly or deftly.
Naturally enough we agreed to his suggestion that he fillet the fish for us.
He wrapped the leavings in the bag and took them away with him. I eyed the fish suspiciously. How was that going to feed twelve people? It spent the day in the ‘fridge. I wondered idly if I should cook another dish to go with it: it looked so ‘flat’ and thin. Then we had a fish braai … I thought of the parable of the loaves and the fishes … I smelled the delicious aroma as the fish cooked … I took a small bite … and enjoyed every mouthful. There was plenty for everyone and I am now convinced that fish fresh from the sea tastes like heaven on earth.