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The way we lived. 12. (Part 3) Gone fishing, recipes included!

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

I did not often go boat-fishing. The first trip was with Rob [yes, he always pops up ]. My younger bro, Rustum, joined us. Well, the commercial fishing boat was about a hundred metres out of Kalk BayHarbour, when my broertjie’s [brother’s] breakfast [or was it lunch?] came up and overboard to feed the fish. The poor lad was green around the gills for the next few hours.

A very amused me took a couple of B/W shots[no colour shots in those days – this was ~1967]. A very sympathetic Rob swore that if Rustum chewed on some used tea leaves, then he would improve! The other not so helpful tip of the day from a cynically worried-looking Rob was that he had to breathe through a piece of cloth soaked in the fishing boat’s bilge water! Alas, I did not stay amused for too long as I joined my bro another fifteen minutes later! Rob then offered me the same remedies. Both Rustum and I declined. By the way, the photo is of Rustum! Rob, behind him, is in his snoek fishing gear.

I just had to put in this shot. Boat-fishing in Whangarei, northern NewZealand. My hapuka catch for the day. That’s groupers. This shot is for Rustum! —>

It is no surprise that Rob introduced me to snorkelling. Okay, some will say that it’s not part of “fishing”. I would have to confess that snorkelling returned me far more seafood than other forms of fishing ever did! I have endless tales of crayfish, perlemoen [abalone] and fish catches that provided us with 3-4 seafood meals a week.

I nearly died on my first real dive with Rob. It was a wondrous warm day with a dead-flat calm sea at Kommetjie. I was dressed in skin-tight track pants and top for protection, but an hour in that cold Atlantic Ocean water left me shivering for over an hour from hypothermia! Of course, the Benguela current comes from the Antarctic!


My great buddy and father-in-law, CB aka Cecil, came to my rescue. He bought me a wetsuit that saved the day. The deal was simple – repayment had to be one crayfish per dive! Well, that must be the best deal CB ever made as I became a pretty successful crayfisherman. Check out the old man’s smile above. Usually, the basin behind me was filled with crayfish and perlemoen. The neck brace? It protected me from twisting my neck in rough seas. Could last a week or two even with physio! After a successful dive, that’s Pat, Ian and I with our hold-all tube with an attached net. Little Craig[?] keen to see the catch? I was “King Cray” to my buddies – and a not so lousy perlemoen gatherer and an occasional spearfisherman with modest success.

<— Behind me is Kommetjie. In amongst the rocks and kelp, seafood was abundant. Of all my sports, and I have had a few, my years of snorkelling gave me more pleasure than the rest of all my activities combined! Above all was the camaraderie – thanks for the memories Pat, Ian, Alan and Michael – the Group of Five, as I still like to think of us!

RECIPE 3. Crayfish

So, how did I cook my crayfish? Best done when there’s still some movement in the limbs. For the squeamish, you can put them in fresh water for a while. Place a plate on the

bottom of the pot and add about a centimetre of sea/freshwater to the pot. Place the cray[s] on top of the plate and cover the pot with a damp cloth. Fire away for 12-15minutes till the cray is uniformly orange-red. You can test a leg – crack open, and the flesh will slip out unless it’s an old frozen bugger! Then get stuck in. The connoisseurs will know that the best parts are the chesty bits which need fingerwork and slurping to appreciate – the fillet of the crayfish! The tail can be dipped in various sauces. A simple one is a mix of tomato sauce and mayonnaise [50:50 mix]. Natasje, Sohrab and myself after a good day at the office!

Crayfish has a robust flavour. It stood up to the late Summerton’s “Honey curry”. Now I see his smile! Deep dimples and all, like his mom, Mrs G! He made this dish over the campfire on our annual dive trips to the Dam, closer to Africa’s tip than Cape Town. Maybe there’s a blog in those trips, but perhaps what went on in the Dam [pronounced Dum!] is best left there! Whether baked, fried[tail meat in garlic butter!] or stewed it can handle spices well. Also makes an excellent soup, even a curried soup! Now, spare me pleez, I’m drowning in saliva!

RECIPE 4. The ultimate challenge is perlemoen/abalone!

It’s more subtle taste made it a favourite with our dive group – the hardcore was Pat, Ian, Mike, Alan and myself. Our hangers-on meant that there could be up to a dozen of us in the water – now that translates to 5×12 crayfish as permitted in earlier times. That meant the core group was able to bring in sixty crayfish. Not bad for breath-holding free-diving! With eight of us in the water one day, I caught twenty of the forty crayfish quota. That was probably my best ever.

<— But this is about perlies. Just check the sizes of kiwi paua vs Aussie abalone vs Cape Town perlemoen. The largest beaut gave up 500g of cleaned meat! So how did I “do” my perly? I removed the flesh from the shell and cut off all the non-fleshy bits aka guts and liver. The cleaned perly meat weighed up to half a kilogram, and I would cut horizontal slices of about five mm thick, then, with a meat tenderiser, bash the daylights out of them till they looked like tatty lace curtains when done. Only the lazy and less fastidious will not bash! Salt, pepper and a light dusting with flour, then quick-fry in a hot pan.

All that was needed was fresh bread, maybe the old onion-tomato salsa/stappie described earlier, and this is the fare of kings. For those like me, who like baked beans, go for it. The softened flesh did not need a knife to cut into it. I have eaten perlemoen in restaurants in California, southern Australia and NZ but have never eaten anything as tender as my melt-in-the-mouth way of prepping them. [Try doing the same with octopus – even the Greeks will want to know how to do it!!] King cray? Maybe the Perly king too!

One could also make fishcakes – frikkadels- with the minced meat. On a sandwich with a touch of Mrs Balls and you would beg for more. A great recipe by famous SA poet/doctor/cook Louis Leipoldt [1880-1947] uses thin slices with mace, brandy and cream to make the most delicious stew – served with rice to soak up the juices. See, there I go again, it’s got me slurping. Just gotta try this recipe again one day! May give it a go with scallops too.

So, the big question that every one of you out there wants to know. Does eating perlemoen translate to better sex? I must confess, that it did nothing for me and I ate a fair share of the stuff. Others may differ – a bit like oysters, maybe? I always felt that I did not need it!! So, there you have it.

A fisherman “goes fishing”; he/she who goes “to catch a fish” will give up what can be a frustrating exercise. For me, fishing is the whole process, the days of anticipation with a watchful eye on the weather; the wind in one’s hair; the sea splashing onto one’s face; the sun or cold on one’s skin; the numb fingers the seasickness in the boat … Okay, I could do without the last experience, so could Rustum! Oh yes, and there is the cooking AND the eating! AND the human interaction, the company one is in!

The best wishes I can extend to all of you out there are “tight lines”!!


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