Scene: A family of four enters a supermarket in Florida, the icy blast of the air conditioning contrasts so much with the sticky atmosphere outside that it makes their sunburned skin ripple with goosebumps. The two children, a young girl of eight and her year older “big” brother race up and down the aisles, feeling the need to touch EVERYTHING and insist that every other item “WE REALLY NEED, MUM!”. The parents are jaded, after a week here, but the excitement on their babies’ faces is enough to keep them trudging along. With the intention of using the hotel barbecue that evening they head for the chillers looking for some swordfish steaks and sausages for the little ones. Suddenly-
Girl: [With chubby hands and freckled nose pressed against a glass tank; the centrepiece of the fish section] Mum, Why are these prawns so big?
Mum: [Without even turning her head] They aren’t prawns, love, they’re lobsters.
Girl [Wide eyed with wonder] Wooooooow. They’re massive! Can we have one?
Mum: No, love, they’re too expensive. Come on, we’ve got to get going before these ice-creams melt.
Girl: Ok. [Taking her mothers hand and skipping alongside her] But, Mum?
Mum: [Sighing, just a little] Yes, love?
Girl: Why would anybody want a lobster as a pet?
[A long silence ensues, followed by the mother bending down and whispering something into the ear of her little cherub]
Security guard: Ma’am, I’m gonna have to ask you to leave. Your little’un is causing quite a scene.
Mum: Of course, yes, sorry.
[Mum carries child, now resembling more of a tasmanian devil than a human child, towards the door as she screams repeatedly “WE’VE GOT TO FREE THEM ALL! THEY’RE GOING TO EAT THEM!!!!]
I was a vegetarian for 10 years after that particular incident, and I still can’t look a prawn in it’s little beady eye without laughing until I get a stitch. Imagine my dilemma, then, when I was faced with some very “fresh” seafood in Da Nang!
The price was dependent on the weight, but we didn’t exactly have much experience in how heavy shellfish are so we nervously agreed to a small crab each and some clams.
“How do you want them?” asked the man hovering over the buckets.
“Cooked!” I squealed, in horror.
A smile spread across his face: “Lemongrass, chilli?” Oh…
The seafood was delicious, and we washed it down with coconut water- an indulgence we were becoming very used to. As we fought to retrieve the flesh from inside the shell with nothing more than a nutcracker and a -you guessed it- pair of chopsticks I began to curse a little, then my mind went back to that incident with the lobsters. Fair play, Mother Nature, we’ll call this one a draw.