Wednesday, 1 January 2014
In order to become a 'fully fledged' member of my family, all boyfriends I took to meet my increasingly eccentric parents were required to pass an initiation test - they must join in the Sock family pastime of 'lobstering'. On one of the Bedsock's first visits an exceptionally low tide meant that the best lobster holes would be uncovered. So at the crack of dawn we were hauled out of bed, bundled into the car along with hooks, nets and evil-smelling catch bags and driven off to the rocky Gower coast.
There was just one slight problem with this, one which I had failed to mention to my parents - the Bedsock suffered from a slight case of kabourophobia. (fear of crustaceans!)
This phobia had manifested itself on our first holiday together to Corsica. A lobster meal didn't quite go to plan when the waitress asked us to pick our live dinner from the tank. The Bedsock quickly suggested I do the honours so I pointed out one likely looking lobster which the waitress fished out and dumped on the tiled floor. As I was making my mind up which of the others would be prime for the pot, the first lobster tried to make a break for it, flopping and crashing across the floor whilst waving its claws in a distinctly threatening manner and heading straight for an extremely alarmed Bedsock! After a short kerfuffle with much shouting, pointing and unnecessary drama from all involved, the angry crustaceans were rounded up and dispatched to the pot - and as I remember, were really very tasty. A bottle or so of local wine helped the Socks get over the experience.
So it was with some trepidation and a great deal of courage that the Bedsock strode over the wild and windy rocky outcrops of Porteynon on the Gower Coast, with a hook in one hand, net in the other and instructions on the most likely ledges and promising pools in which to catch crabs and prawns. We weren't expected to show lobster catching expertise and in any case, my parents had already sped off, sure-footed across the slippery, seaweed strewn, rocks to the rarely uncovered tidal pools which most promised a good haul. We wandered in a fairly desultory manner across the outcrops, clambering down gulleys and prodding and poking our hooks under ledges and into rocky holes with no real hope of foraging food. A sudden shout from the Bedsock that he had seen a lobster retreat rapidly under a ledge was greeted with derisive disbelief from me. Nevertheless, I joined him to stare into the gloomy depths and astonishingly caught a glimpse of the creamy underside of a blue black claw. Hopping around torn between the excitement of his find and the fear of a sudden crustacean attack the Bedsock held his net to bar the exit from the underwater ledge to the open sea whilst I waded into the water and pushed my hooked pole to the back of the ledge. The lobster, feeling that discretion was the better part of valour, resisted the temptation to grasp my hook in its crushing claw and headed for the open water straight into the Bedsock's waiting net. Quickly hoisting the large (2kg) lobster out of the pool the Bedsock swung the net round to me. I grasped the lobster around its back and keeping my fingers well clear of its vicious claws, thrust it into my catchbag where it gradually went quiet.
We were ecstatic, the lobster catch a true sign that the Bedsock was now a fully fledged member of the Sock family. The triumphant announcement that he had caught a crustacean in spite of his phobia being only spoiled by OldMaSock insisting that he should now try picking up one of the large crabs she had caught. Fresh from his victory, adrenalin still running, the Bedsock followed her instructions to pick up the crab from behind with two hands, holding the crab's back at each side between thumb and forefinger. "Is this right?" he asked nervously, holding the creature somewhat gingerly "it can't attack me can it?" "No, you are fine" replied my mother "they can't swivel their claws up behind their backs.................... unless, of course, it's one of the double-jointed ones!". As the colour blanched out of the Bedsock's face I felt this was one of the many times I could cheerfully have strangled my mother.
We had just one more obstacle to overcome. Sometime during the early 80s, perhaps as a result of holidays spent in Greece, my parents had stopped serving lobster the 'traditional' way (with chips, and Heinz tomato sauce or salad cream) and started throwing the pieces of the cooked lobster into a cream and oregano sauce to be served with rice. I say cream but OldMaSock, always eager to save money, may well have substituted 'top of the milk'. The oregano was always of the dried, stale and harsh variety and the sauce, thickened with some unknown quantity, was quite often somewhat gelatinous. This method of cooking and destroying the delicate flavour of the creature was so vile that the Bedsock and I privately referred to the dish as 'lobster massacre'.
"Please don't let OldMaSock massacre my lobster" wailed the Bedsock when he saw her eyeing it up for tea. I put my foot down and insisted that we should eat some of the crabs she had caught and that the Bedsock's lobster be kept alive until we could escape with it back home to Brighton.
We have never caught a lobster since but we have eaten plenty, Maine lobsters, Cornish lobsters, French lobsters.. but none of them will ever compare to the sweet flesh of the Welsh lobster we caught on the Gower coast.