Friday 27 January 2023

Erik Menkveld: 'De nieuwe vis'

The new fish


Already when the specimen is being served

adjoining tables stop the digging

of further trenches in the chestnut purée,


the spading of curled-up lettuce leaves

stagnates, wines linger in lifted glasses:

this fish is not the convivial fare


from the deep. A revelation,

hauled it would seem from primordial 

waters. Though head and tail-fin gone,


seasoned fishermen blinked back their tears

at the sight of breasts, the rudiments

of limbs. How many species had had to


perish for this peerless creature? Or

in it had their origin? But the time

has come for consumption. Uncertain moment:


the chef was faced with a culinary enigma.

How to prepare what’s never been prepared

and in itself is seemingly complete?


Poach, braise or marinate? Superfluous,

an insult. And what then? Do you keep things

simple with seaweed and slivers on toast


or does this call for a complex brandade

for the more demanding stomach? Raw, unsliced

it became, with ostrich egg and shoveller roulade.


Even the sploshing ice-cube water

halts at the point of pouring.

Then the first elected eater places


the first forkful in his mouth. He chews

in silence and unparalleled abandonment. Then

starts to utter ghastly screams. Revulsion,


ecstasy perhaps? He dances round for minutes,

subsiding into baffled staring. Even

after the babas he can’t speak about it.



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