My beloved father is a fisher – of trout not of men.
My beloved mother is not a fisher.
Neither am I.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.