Teach a man to fish…


My beloved father is a fisher – of trout not of men.

My beloved mother is not a fisher.

Neither am I.

hooked7One day, lost in annals of time, my father arrived home jubilant carrying a long tube.

My mother was ensconced in the bath.

She was getting herself ready for a blissful weekend at a very exclusive trout fishing resort.


Her plans included looking beautiful, making small talk and sipping very expensive glasses of French champagne.

Her plans did not include fishing.

In any way.

At all.

moses1Realising that this development of the long tubular item could be problematic, I hastened to my mother’s bathroom door.

“Mom,” I whispered, “Daddy’s bought a fishing rod.”

There was a splash and silence while she digested this.

“But your father already has a fishing rod.”

“I know,” I said, “I think this one is for you.”

There was a bigger splash and a crash of a tea-cup hitting the floor and shattering into a million pieces.

“Good God!”she exclaimed, “Do you think he expects me to… to… to… FISH?”

“Um, well,” I replied, “I think that might be the plan.”

“What am I going to DO?”she moaned, “I can’t gut a fish. I’ll die!”

“It’s okay,” I tried to soothe her; “Chances are you won’t catch anything anyway.”

Although she managed to convey a suitable level of gratitude and excitement, her joie de vivre for the experience was quite seriously dented.

Fishing castsMy father is a brilliant trout fisherman.

Flies soar through the air like little deadly homing pigeons.

They hover and flit and flirt along the surface of the water bringing home delicious fat pink trout.

Once a year my father’s fishing troupe (what is the collective noun for a group of fishermen? Google informs me it is an exaggeration or a cast of fishermen,) disappear into the countryside of beautiful South Africa in search of plump fish and a little solitude.

This year my father arrived at my home with a gorgeous offering the size of which could have easily been mistaken for a kraken. It has been in the freezer malevolently catching my eye with its glassy glaze each time I open the door.

My children had had enough of having to negotiate it each time they wanted an ice-cream and yesterday I was implored to cook it.

I am fine with cooking fish.

Not a problem.

trout 1I am not okay with my food looking at me while I cook it.

After a brief discussion with my spouse I realised that neither of us particularly wanted to behead our dinner.

Close to starvation I girded my loins, selected the scariest blade I could find and laid out the fish like some pagan offering.

I stood there, knife poised, breathing deeply while my children gathered in silence to witness the sacrifice. The silence didn’t last very long as my eldest decided to instruct me on the best way to decapitate.

“Go away!”I screeched, “I’m already freaked out without your commentary.”

knifeThey vacated the kitchen and hid behind the counter with wide eyes watching their mother wield the closest thing to a broadsword I could find.

I closed my eyes and hacked and sawed and sawed and wept.

I have new respect for professional axe men – it is not a nice task.

Left with the severed head I realised that doing this on the day after the garbage was collected was perhaps not the best idea I have ever had. I know I could have fed it to my cats, but quite frankly I couldn’t bear to meet its gaze for a moment longer. I triple wrapped it and quietly slipped it into the neighbour’s bin.

Malloch Trophy 007Nonetheless, Nigella and I managed to poach it quite beautifully in Marsala Wine, butter and lemon juice.

It was utterly delicious.

Even my children devoured it and they are even scarier than Gordon Ramsay.

What I learned was that I can be a great cook, that my father is the consummate fisherman and that I would be an appalling surgeon, butcher or executioner.

Most importantly I learned that for great food, great sacrifices must be made.



12 thoughts on “Teach a man to fish…

  1. I used to fish with my maternal grandmother as she had a friend across the street with a catfish pond. I did not gut them though, that was too icky. As I now live in the desert, getting fresh fish is usually really expensive (don’t even get me started on chopped fish sushi – which in my opinion is not real sushi and should be therefore discounted – b*******). Anyways, it is cheaper to get whole fish if you can find it here, but I too do not like my dinner looking at me, so I would be freaked out at having to decapitate it (but your story did make me lol at work).

  2. ha ha I loved that, made me laugh.
    I once used to hunt Rabbit with my Dad and his friends. And when it came time to behead a LIVE rabbit, I cried. I thought my Dad would shout at me. He didn’t he cuddled me, and he let the Rabbit live and I seen it run away and jump back into its warren. Possibly to meet the same pole cat that had chased it out..

    But the one my Dad caught, I eat. At a time when I had several pet Rabbits run around my back garden. So I totally get where you were.

    Thanks for sharing. Great story, and the fun you added made it better still.

    • Thanks! My dad called to explain the correct way to dismember a trout this afternoon. His words to me were, “Why didn’t you Google it?” It was a strange shift in personality paradigms.

      • ha ha ha ha ha
        If only!!!
        You can behead a fish while having the head covered.
        And thoughts patters are what made you not want to cut the head off. lol


  3. Oh goodness, have never tried butchering fish, but it my experience at trying to French a rack of lamb is anything to go by, I think these are the type of things that should be left to the professionals. The cooking shows on TV make it look soooo easy!

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