A passion of mine
A beach setting is not essential for the enjoyment of this seductive indulgence, because I find the pastime irresistible anywhere; it’s just that the ambience of where the land meets the sea releases that escape valve for me on the hustle of everyday life.
So let your mind’s eye picture this scene to understand my anticipation as I cross the busy road from the shops, and head for the sandstone wall separating the walkway from a wide expanse of clean, creamy sand constantly teased by the lapping of a living sea. A beady-eyed seagull seems to have spotted me already – I wonder if its in-built radar recognises that line of trajectory from shop to seawall.
My taste buds had already been roused – they’d perked up when I passed the enticing shop window and entered through the bead curtain rustling at the doorway. But the heightened excitement in my olfactory region had to be quieted and tempered with considerable patience because there was a queue and I had to take a number.
The air was busy with the usual sounds of busyness and an underlying steady hum from the exhaust fan drawing the smells and hot oily droplets up and away into the universe. Intermittently there’s the mumble of order taking and the sound of money changing places, followed by the snatching up of a big wire basket from the draining rack to be filled with battered fish, potato cakes and scoops of long pale chips. A hiss goes up as the load hits the bubbling oil. Now and then the hotplate corner comes alive with sizzling and much scraping and turning of onion rings, patties and fried eggs. The halting progress of the queue is marked by the bang of a basket followed by a thick slap of the latest mouth-watering offering tumbling onto pristine greaseproof and butchers paper, ready for an optional sprinkling of salt and tight wrapping. No, no tomato sauce, thank you.
At last, I’m perched on the wall overlooking the sea and my hair is gently ruffled by a quixotic ozone breeze, but that is all I am aware of because my heart is beating eagerly now in anticipation of the treat to come. I tear at the tight folds impatiently, forcing a hole through the protective layers, all the while knowing everything will be steamy and too hot, but I don’t care. Off comes a jagged corner of paper to get a hold of something deep-fried – what will I take first – a golden battered potato cake with its thick floury centre and sprinkling of salt, or a bite-sized chunk of lightly battered succulent flesh of gummy shark. A dreamy potato cake, I think – just a few tentative nibbles around the edge and it will soon be cool enough to be mine for savouring to the very end and until a smudge of grease on the paper is all that remains. From there it’s just a greedy matter of proceeding from one delectable morsel to the next to the finish. My greasy fingers are dried on the sadly depleted packet and finally I notice the hypnotic sound of the sea as it swells, then slides and retreats in its everlasting rhythm. At last the lone seagull standing sentinel on his one good leg catches my eye with an impenetrable gaze and recognizing a hopeless case, exercises a graceful vertical lift and glides off; all is well with my world.
Copyright Kerrie Waters
19th May 2010