Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Riverbank and Lemon Juice

River Creuse
We're camped across from Monsieur and Madame Dix-Huit.  They're from Cher, you know, and here for the fishing.  The other day Madame and her keep net, in which were seven fish of varying sizes from miniscule to quite definitely not big enough to eat, presented herself to me.

‘Pour vous,’ she said smiling.  So I got my bucket and tipped them in – all fresh and alive and looking like nothing I have ever seen on my local Fish Market.  I thanked her profusely and then gave them to James to murder.  I can handle most things but I do draw the line at murder.

When quite dead I thought about gutting them and realised that this operation required specialist equipment.  I got one of James’ hankies and sprayed it with perfume and then tied it over my nose.  Well you don’t know what these river fish have been eating – do you?  Then I put on my rubber washing up gloves and proceeded to prepare them whilst my brother went to get some fresh bread and patisserie for lunch.

Another river dweller that was not presented!
‘They’ll taste as muddy as hell,’ he said when he got back.

‘Well we can’t just throw them away.  Monsieur and Madame will be upset.  I shall at least have to cook them,’ I said.

There is no mistaking the smell of frying fish – it was just beginning to waft across the campsite from Madame’s caravan.  Whether we ate the fish or not I knew I had to cook them.  So, hot oil in the pan, floured postage-stamp-sized fillets in as well, and there it was again – that smell.  At least Madame would be pleased, I thought.

Sitting at the table I looked at my fish with absolutely no relish whatsoever.  I seasoned it, added a splash of lemon juice and then pushed it about a bit, decidedly unsure about whether I should eat or not.

James took a mouthful of his and almost immediately retched over the table and frantically started stuffing great chunks of bread into his mouth. Eventually, I summoned up enough courage to try a tiny mouthful.  It tasted of riverbank and had the consistency of thick custard.  I quickly went for the bread option to stop myself retching.  To keep up the pretence of eating I started knifing and forking the fish around the plate.

'You need to do the same,' I said.

‘Why are we whispering, they don’t speak any English?’

'Retching is multi-lingual, James,' I said.  'It doesn't need translation!'

After what I thought was an appropriate amount of time I cleared the plates away and put the fish into an empty carton that I had forgotten to take to the bins after breakfast, put that in a plastic box and put that in James’ bag for life.

Display outside the nearby bakers

'You'll have to make it look like we're going shopping this afternoon so that we can get rid of the evidence,' I said as I put the patisserie and coffee on the table.

Got back yesterday to find a package in the shade of my tent.

'Oh no,' I said.  'That's more fish, James.’

‘Give that to me,' he said.  'They're not here so I'll walk back into town and dump it.'

Later I saw Monsieur and Madame eating their fish.  I nodded and smiled and thanked them again for ours.
‘James,’ I whispered, ‘that fish you threw away today was trout!’

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