Fish from the farmers’ market


We waited up at night for the men to come home from their camping trip.  They often didn’t get back until quite late and those of us in the next generation old enough to stay awake did so.  There was the excitement of that “Dad’s home” moment plus our fascination with the damp hessian bags that emerged from the back of the utes and station wagons.  Lit by the beams of car headlamps, the men unwrapped fresh river fish and distributed it amoung the families’ eskies.

The local farmer’s market is too crowded for my liking, so I aimed for an early start.  It opens at 8.  I arrived at 8:15.  Finding the fish stand was not difficult.  It wasn’t the obvious smell, as you might predict, but the tall refrigerated van seen above the heads of others that showed the way.

No dusty old farm hats.  It’s all undercover.  No dirt underfoot.  The market has a concrete floor.  No damp hessian.  The fish is stacked in polystyrene boxes with ice.

No cries of “They’re here” as headlights were spotted in the distance or car horns were heard down the lane.  No throng of kids and wives rushing to the front gate to greet those they’ve been missing.   There was a queue.  I rested, assured that I was not standing in that forever-unattended spot that prompts a cry of “What about me?”.

Facing the assortment of white and pink flesh, I opted for the easiest option – filleted, cleaned and deboned flathead.  I wasn’t sure how much to buy.  Would I look silly asking for 100g?  Was that going to be two pieces or half a piece?  I took my cue from the red-headed man in the biker gear ahead of me – “Six pieces of flathead” he said.  I tried to ask for the same, but unpacking the pieces from the paper and plastic was a little alarming.  16 pieces!  Contrary to my aim, there is frozen fish in the freezer again.

I also bought a whole snapper to try.  Having now cooked and eaten it, I could provide a series of tips on what not to do.  Instead, may I provide just one: Avoid whole fish any larger than a sardine.  It was not very efficient as I’m sure I paid for a head, tail and backbone that I then threw away.

There are exceptions to this rule…  for example, you actually caught it yourself from some fast-running mountain stream or over the side of a wave-tossed boat miles from shore.  In such cases, the experience of catching the fish favourably tips the scales.  Take an old hessian bag with you in expectation.

So, on reflection, my expedition to the farmer’s market was much more interesting than opening a fogged-up glass door at the supermarket and fishing the same old packet of frozen whatever off the shelf.

If there is opportunity to turn the mundane into an adventure, I vote we go for it.