Cooking crayfish the old-fashioned way

“Fill this bucket with sea water” is the instruction. I only comply because I know what it’s for. To cook the last crayfish catch of the season! The word ‘season’ is laughable as it totals 14 days over a 6-month period. In the old days, the season was every day for 6 months. We ate our fill of red gold over the years and now it is more a case of going crayfishing for the pleasure of sitting on a calm sea in a little boat, pulling up the nets through thick fronds of kelp in eager anticipation of what they will hold. Sometimes the net is filled with furiously flapping tails as the crayfish resist being pulled up from the seabed and sometimes there is a sea-snake that has to be disentangled before it can cover everything with a thick layer of slime. Sometimes the net is empty.

I’m not wearing shoes, but as the sea is about 100m away across a stretch of gravel and a short tar road, I set off, swinging my little red bucket. In no time I am pulling devil thorns from the soles of my feet, feeling as though they are embedded in the bones. I am instantly transported back in time to the days of my youth in Clovelly, when shoes were left at home and soles were burned on hot tar roads and thorns were plentiful on the verges.

This tar is pleasantly warm and I soon reach the path along the bay. The grassy knoll has been replaced with a wide slab of concrete and a low wall. The good people of Kommetjie have softened the hard lines of the new path by placing rocks (smoothed and rounded by the waves over millennia along the shore) on both sides. Hopefully this path will better withstand the might of winter storms than previous ones.

The resident cobra is not draped over the boulders today.

It is low tide and the sea is far away at the end of the jumbled rocks. A little concrete slipway put there decades ago to enable people to access the water without breaking a leg allows me to dip my little red bucket into crystal clear sea water, devoid of fragments of kelp and sea lice. A few deep breaths of bracing sea air to clear the sinuses, and it’s back home to prepare the feast.

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