As an expat living in France, our daily lives are much similar to anyone else in the world. We work too hard, drink too much and tour all too often - all self-confessed failings. So, from time to time, when we do see a chance, we tend to take it with both hands. Thus it was last weekend, visiting friends up near La Rochelle, we took a diversion on our way home to a tourist destination – the lovely island of Oleron, just off the coast north of Bordeaux. Sadly its beautiful beaches were deserted bar a few hardy surfers and, as the car door was wrenched from my hand by 40 mph gusts, I could quite understand why. Then, after an extremely fresh walk with the dogs, the rain set in, shrouding the island in a blanket of grey which was most un-befitting. Were we a pair of holidaying tourists, we may have taken exception to the downpour and turned tail for home. However, to us the rain was welcome, negating the need to rush home and water the vegetable garden, so we settled into a swanky restaurant for Sunday lunch.
As this was in a small fishing port, I fancied some fresh fish – well you do, don’t you?
On the menu I am confronted with a fish beginning with P, a name which I didn’t recognise and, always being an adventurous eater, selected it as my choice. On giving my order to the delightfully camp waiter, casually I asked him in reasonable French what would this fish be called in English? Without a moments hesitation he obliged me by fetching an English translated menu, something they kept just to humiliate tourists, parading it around the room so that sniggering could be heard amongst the rest of the French clientele.
On opening it, laughter could be heard from our table too. Seeing poorly translated French menus is commonplace in the more anglified parts of Dordogne and often makes me chuckle.
Here we had ANGRY HAKE, served with new potatoes and a green salad.
Oui, voila! I exclaimed, the angrier the better. He didn’t see the joke. Patiently I awaited my Hake with unmitigated intrigue. It had to be a misprint?
A more outraged creature, I have never seen. This thing was terrifying. Bent round in a circle, the mouth of the fish was wide open, gripping its own tail with teeth like that of a great white shark. Not only that, but its eyes were so vicious I would have gladly handed it my wallet, car keys and young-born, were I to meet in it an alleyway.
Thankfully, it was dead, although it did take me a few minutes standing cowering back from the table before I accepted this fact, eventually prodding it with the sharp knife that I had been instinctively gripping with white knuckles.
I am not a great one for sci-fi movies, but I am pretty sure Ridley Scott must have dined here before going onto make the film, Alien.
Eventually, as I dined on its flesh, after first rapidly removing its head in a frantic sawing motion in case in a it was only stunned, I couldn’t help wondering how many diners may have had a coronary after being faced with such a plate. My guess is the kitchen staff had the paramedics on speed dial!
I have to say, it was delicious though.
And on consideration, it probably had every right to be angry, after being tugged from the Atlantic, then thrust into a pot of boiling water and fed to humans in the name of entertainment. A more compassionate soul would have felt sorry for it.
I, on the other hand, am still having nightmares, where it comes back to life and bursts out of my stomach at a dinner party, systematically devouring all the other guests.