This Good Friday, Food For Mzansi’s new chief reporter, Lucinda Dordley, reminisces about her family’s Easter memories. And she secretly wonders who between her father and grandparents will serve this year’s best pickled fish.
Easter is easily my favourite time of the year. It combines family and two of my favourite foods – hot cross buns and a very vinegary pickled fish.
My family is partial to a pickled hake. I simply believe it absorbs that yellowed goodness the best. My favourite part is slathering a freshly toasted hot cross bun with butter, and adding copious amounts of onions and hunks of fish.
I grew up fishing with my father. I have fond memories of clambering across rocks in Gordon’s Bay on a Sunday morning, watching the sun rise as my father pattered in the nearby shallow pools in his search for hookworms.
We always believe in using fresh, live bait to catch. Even on the days when we went home with nothing but empty bait buckets and drained bottles of Coca-Cola, I was satisfied to have memories of a great day with my father.
Easter represents a period of rest and restoration to me, and presents the perfect opportunity to reconnect with the most important people in my life – my parents, cousins and grandparents.
‘A match made in heaven’
Our family is small. At 24, I am the eldest of six cousins and a full ten years older than the second-eldest cousin. I am less vocal than my family members, and can often be found sitting and reading a book, surrounded by the cacophony of chatter created by my grandfather (who always seems to be scolding) and cousins (who always seem to be jumping on the couches, knowing it annoys my grandfather).
My grandmother is a small, fierce woman, always scolding as well. Her and my grandfather are a match made in heaven, and he loves her pickled fish.
She always serves hers in ornate bowls of coloured glass. My favourite was a large brown bowl, which she gave to me when I first moved out of the parental home. I felt honoured to receive it. In fact, I treasure it so deeply that I rarely use it, in case it breaks.
As a child, I would pull open the doors of my grandmother’s mahogany wood cupboard and marvel at her collection of special occasion crockery, delicate fine china tea sets and shiny gold cake forks.
She treasures her collection, some of which are remnants of her trousseau, and one day, as I grow older, I hope to amass a collection and love it as dearly as she loves hers.
Secret ‘pickled fish of the year’ contest
My parents switch between hosting Easter lunches at their home in Stellenbosch, nestled at the bottom of an incline in the hilly town, and taking my father’s delicious pickled fish over to my grandparents to have lunch at their home. Secretly, I would rate their fish. My grandmother’s was paler, and she used snoek.
My father’s was flavoursome, the taste of vinegar robust and delicious, and he used hake. My grandmother’s onions soaked the pickled juice better, and as such, elevated the taste of my buttered hot cross bun.
“I would ask my cousins whose they preferred, and would beg them to keep it a secret.”
I didn’t want my grandmother and father to know I had created a secret “pickled fish of the year” competition and have kept the silent tradition since I was five years old.
I am a terrible cook. I often burn eggs, or serve half-cooked chicken. My friends know that I never bring anything homemade to the potlucks.
I am never asked to help dice the tomato for the salsa on nacho nights, simply because I am a danger both to myself and everyone else when I am left in the kitchen.
So, I’ve been too nervous to even attempt to make my own pickled fish and take it over to my parents for Easter.
During this time of the year, my home is filled with take-away pickled fish containers and the shining silver of hot cross bun holders. The store-bought pickled fish will have to do until I get to my parents’ home this Easter.
I wonder whether my grandmother or father will win the competition this year.