Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Two Flummoxed Fishermen

Adonis and Jackie have invited us around for a meal. They live in Pilona and we arrive around early afternoon to the superb aroma of Jackie's cooking. Not long after we're welcomed through the front door we're ensconced around the beautifully-set table and sipping on chilled white wine. The atmosphere is congenial, as it always is with these two and their nine year old daughter, Effoula, who's a sweetie. The log fire in the corner is roaring away. Bliss.

Before long Jackie places the ορεκτικό (starter) before us and it's a dish of θαλασσινά (sea food), consisting of prawns, smoked salmon and slices of octopus. This is dressed with some lettuce salad and we're presented with a half a lemon each to zest it up a bit. Mayonnaise is on hand if we want it. Needless to say there's a bottle of olive oil on the table too. It looks yummy, but I've fairly bad memories of eating octopus, but decide to try it in order to ascertain whether I can eat it all or not. Very frequently whenever I've tried octopus it's been rather rubbery. Not even mentioning the old joke about the Chinese waiter and the diner. All right then, I'll mention it! You must know it:

Chinese waiter: "How was your steak sir?"
Diner: "Rather rubbery."
Chinese waiter: "Ah, thank you velly much!"

Or there's the other one, "How find your steak sir?"
Diner" "Oh, I just lifted up a slice of carrot and there it was!"

Sorry, got a bit sidetracked there. Octopus, yes, well, I've never much cared for it as I've usually found it rubbery, as in, well, actually rubbery. So with great trepidation I forked a slice of Jackie & Adonis' offering and popped it into the old cake hole. Surprise surprise, it was rather nice. Very nice in fact and not at all rubbery. Just to reassure myself that this wasn't a fluke, I tried another slice, which was equally as good. I glanced wife-wards to see her face betraying a similar reaction. We both then looked at our hosts to see them staring expectantly back, evidently awaiting our verdict. The texture was beautifully soft and it melted in the mouth. On this evidence I'd have to admit to liking octopus, something which I'd never have admitted to in times past.

Looking at Adoni I ask, "How come it's so soft?" before I can continue he replies, "I know, you were going to say it's usually chewy and tough." I agree. He continues, "The secret's in the tenderizing and the length of time you cook it. I do the tenderizing, Jackie cooks it."

"Come on then," asks the better half, "how do you do it?"

Jackie cuts in: "Two fresh octopuses [or is that octopii?] were given to us by Adoni's friend as a return favour. We sliced them, cooked them and then froze them. After that you just have to pop them on the barbie or under the grill for a few minutes and they're ready. But, you have to be thorough, both when you tenderize and when you cook it. Most people cook Octopus for half an hour or so, I cook it gently for at least two hours."

"In fact," adds Adonis, "the longer you cook it the better it turns out. But you have to bash it first."

"You mean," I ask, "like we see fishermen doing on the rocks, when they pick it up and smash it down again and again? A bit like the equivalent of the butcher using that funny wooden hammer to tenderize steaks?"

"Exactly," replies Adonis. "When Stergo gave these to me, though, he said that they hadn't been 'bashed' and that I'd have to be sure and do it before cooking them. When Jackie said that we'd be using them in today's starter, I decided that I'd better get them bashed, then. I didn't know where else to do it than at the beach, where I knew I could find a suitable flat bit of rock. So I hopped in the car, octopuses in a bucket, and nipped down to the beach at Lardos Lima'ni, where there are plenty of rocks. I parked up, got out of the car and walked down to the water's edge. Once I'd found an appropriate rock, I got out the first octopus and started bashing it. You have to smash it down at least fifty times to be sure it's properly tenderized. It took a while."

We were all ears as he continued: "The funny thing was, there were a couple of fishermen present, not a stone's throw away from me. Do you know how people catch octopus?"

"Yea, 'course," I reply. "You go snorkelling with your speargun."

"Exactly!" Says Adonis. "So, there I am smashing this octopus on the rocks when I look up and see a couple of these fishermen, all trussed up in their windcheaters and jeans, tending their rods and waiting for a bite. They're staring at me a bit strangely. Of course, I had no idea why they were looking at me in that way, so I waved and called out a 'kali mera'. They replied with the sort of wave that made them look like they'd seen a ghost. I though it dead weird, but I just carried on. Once I'd done the first at least fifty times, I put it back in the bucket and got out the other one. Off I went with my bashing again and, when I looked over at the fishermen, they were nudging each other and pointing at me. I wondered if I'd forgotten to do my flies up or something. I checked and that wasn't the problem. I stared about and still couldn't work out what was phasing them. So, once I'd done both octopuses, I strolled back to the car, trying not to look freaked by their odd staring, started it up and began to drive home.

"I was half-way home before I realized why they were flummoxed. You told me you know how someone catches octopus. You have to go into the sea and swim with your mask and speargun. Well, there was this bloke (me), just a few yards away from these two fishermen, and he's right at the water's edge bashing away his apparently newly-caught octopuses and he's dressed in his jeans and a sweater. No sign of a wetsuit, mask or snorkel. They'd been there longer than me!! They must have thought I was the ghost of the phantom octopusman!!!"

Needless to say, the four of us ended up falling about over the flummoxed fishermen, who'll probably never know the truth. Imagine what they told their friends and family around their dinner table!

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