(This chapter is not for the fainthearted. If you are teetering on the edge of vegetarianism, this may tip the balance!)
The Swedes love their crayfish so much that they have a special party for the opening of the season at the beginning of August. There is a strict protocol about catching crayfish. No-one is allowed to put out any crayfish pots until the 1st of August, not even in one’s own pond! Once the season is opened, the lake is strictly divided into areas, and you are not allowed to just go and catch your own crayfish, not even from the shores of your own land!
Frank’s hunter-gatherer spirits rose, so we made a trip to Emilio, a neighbour of Eva’s, some 3kilometres down the road (the sense of neighbourhood is somewhat spread out in these parts). Emilio is a spirited and slightly gruff octogenarian who owns a pond where previously Frank had been allowed to go crayfishing. Emilio is on his way to see a friend, but with a sweeping gesture of his arm, he allows us to put the pots out and help ourselves to everything we need to do so.
First we search his barn for a garden fork, to dig for worms to go fishing for bait. 10 minutes later, we have about 20 poor wriggling creatures in a little plastic pot.
We take a fishing rod that’s leaning against the barn and take up position by the mill leat.
Although I have done lots of fishing as a child and even skewered the worms onto the hook myself, somehow as an adult I have more feelings for the worms, who don’t die an instant death but keep on wriggling on the hook for a long time. In fact, it’s essential that they do, otherwise the fish wouldn’t be attracted to them. While Frank is casting the line, I am starting to wonder if my lust for crayfish justifies the slow murder of over a dozen worms.
The fishing goes remarkably fast – after about 20 seconds, Frank reels in the first one, quite small, and with beautiful red fins. It would be too small for human consumption, but as crayfish bait it is perfect. After a couple more fish are pulled on land and had their heads smashed to ensure as swift a death as possible, my memory of fishing with my dad takes over and I want to cast a line too. I pull out quite a big one, almost big enough to have for dinner. But this evening, we are fishing for bait, not for ourselves…
Once we have about half a dozen fish, we proceed to the pots, with the death toll having risen to about 20. Frank cuts the fish into bits, and with a lot of fiddling, organises the bait to hang in the middle of the pots. Then we sink them into the pond and go home for dinner.
All evening, I feel slightly haunted by the fact that we have killed so many animals in a day.
The next day we return to lift the pots out of the pond, and lo and behold, 8 pots yield 32 sizeable crayfish. They are beautiful creatures! One by one, Frank empties the pots into a big Tesco bag. It is obvious that crayfish are solitary, territorial animals who prefer the dark – they show distress at being in the bright sunshine all on top of each other. They start to fight with each other, with some of them winning and others losing a limb in the process…
By now, I am quite upset at seeing so much suffering. As Frank tips out a pot, one crayfish falls on the ground beside the bag and I don’t point it out. I think, give him an even chance – if Frank doesn’t spot him, he may be able to just slink back into the lake! But unfortunately he makes for Frank’s foot instead, and, thinking of 10 days of Tango Mango ahead of us, I warn Frank of the impending danger. He ends up in the Tesco bag (the crayfish, that is).
By now, I’ve definitely seen enough of this murderous process, without watching the cooking. I’m certainly not eating any of the crayfish tonight!
Needless to say, I try to keep my mouth shut and not spoil the fun for anyone else – the Swedes really do go for it when they have their crayfish parties, complete with specially designed silly hats, lanterns and particular drinking songs. I enjoy the merry atmosphere and eat salad instead.
This killing spree has its impact on me.
I think I only want to eat meat when I feel I really need it. There is hardly any meat on those crayfish!!! I think it would be more efficient to kill a pig or a cow, thus lose only one soul and have plenty of meat.
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