the Minstrel's Tale down along the Costa Blanca
The events portrayed in this series are not necessarily in chronological order
afraid that So-and-So won't
be appearing at the club tonight
as he has been suddenly taken drunk.
Bink, Buddy and Snooky
Conny's cousin John had brought a shipment of haring (i.e., herring) with him. Now the Dutch know all about haring. The preparation and eating of them has got to be done by the book and they are adamant in that. Centuries of folklore have turned the haring into a kind of cult image and John is probably what one might describe as a haring guru so I didn't see too much of him this time, because while we were having fun on the terrace, the dogs were rushing around and the kids were jumping up and down, leaping into the pool and having one hell of a good time, John was in the kitchen the entire evening skinning the damn things.
You have to transport them untouched by human hand because these haring have to be eaten a few seconds after coming under the knife. Wait too long and they are ruined. Well, that's what they told me. They must be eaten correctly, too. This involves tilting the head right back as far as it will go without it falling off, holding the haring by its tail high above, then gently lowering it into the open mouth, and presumably, right down into the open throat, before chewing swallowing and moaning with pleasure.
Haring are eaten raw, of course. Oh, yuk! No, no, hold on: they are absolutely delicious. Trust me on this. I remarked to Conny later on that I'd always thought haring were treated in some way, laid down in brine or vinegar, or whatever.
Not these haring, she replied. They are merely packed in salt immediately they are caught and kept that way until sold...
Well there you are then, I said.
...to get rid of the worms, she added.
When I see people eating haring I am invariably reminded of an elderly German acquaintance of some years back who was a real treat to watch when eating such delicacies. A herring he would thrust into his mouth, whole and unskinned, clamp his teeth around the poor perisher and withdraw it slowly by the tail. To the horror and revulsion of all present only the backbone would emerge. He was hot stuff when eating Weisswurst, too. Weisswurst needs careful preparation, must be opened surgically, eaten daintily with a touch of sweet mustard. This man shoved the Weisswurst right in as far as it would go, bit down hard, and pulled the collapsed skin out from between clenched teeth.
Very popular at parties he was. Used to pocket all the bread rolls before we'd even sat down at the table. He always brought with him an empty wine bottle or two and went around the table after we'd finished, pouring any wine that was left over, regardless of type or colour, into these bottles. On several occasions I caught him doing it before we were halfway through the meal. Suddenly there'd be no more bread and no more wine. He was always finished before everyone else because he'd start in eating before most of us had got through the usual milling about routine shaking hands, kissing, saying how-are-you, how have you been and deciding where to sit. This was necessary because nobody wanted to sit opposite or anywhere near him.
Anyway, we had a marvellous time last night, great food, love all around, warm Spanish breeze, starlit sky, surrounded by friends and family. You can't beat it.
Copyright © 2004, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved
Marco eating the haring - Photo by Maaike Bogaard