The Bait Box with Retired Fisherman Norm Hawler “The Overconfident Crook”

There is a south island tourist location which is well known for its seafood delights. Scattered through the town are several cafes and restaurants and each seems to have its own specialty on any given day. Tourists and locals frequent such establishments and during the holiday periods in particular it is clear to any observer that business is generally pretty good.

Good seafood is not inexpensive – it must be fresh, it must be carefully prepared and cooked and it should be presented well. For all of that effort and for the deliciousness of the final product a customer will gladly part with some serious money. And of course, there are businesses willing to make the most of that.

But not all of them do it the right way. What follows is a true story for which I still don’t have the final ending, but to get you up to speed I will explain the first few chapters.

Good mate of mine shouts his son a trip down south with his new girlfriend and recommends our particular tourist town as a destination. Son and the girlfriend choose a café for lunch and he orders the alleged freshly cooked lobster off the menu. For your money you get half a lobster with some salad, chips and a choice of dressing. Lobster is served and with joy in his heart and soon in his stomach the lad starts picking sweet white meat from the tail. Then notices a cluster of berries – or lobster eggs – on two of the tail segments. He calls to the proprietor – Hang on mate, you can’t keep lobsters with eggs on and you sure as hell can’t sell them with eggs on.

The seemingly abject apology from the café owner went something like this – Very, very sorry I don’t know how that happened – we always scrub the eggs off before we cook them, we must have missed one. I will get you one with no eggs.

The next chapter will eventually play out when Fisheries Officers investigate the complaint (complete with photos) and pay a visit to the offending café.

As you might have guessed by now I have been on god’s earth for quite a while so nothing really shocks or surprises me. And at my age I well remember the Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr – who by the way was a pioneer in the paua industry around Wellington in his younger days. In his first published cookbook Kerr provided a recipe for “Coral Butter”, the main ingredient of which was ‘carefully removed eggs from a freshly killed lobster’. But at my age I just cannot remember exactly what the relevant fishing rules were back then – but I certainly know what they are now – total prohibition on possession of egg bearing lobsters. Coral butter has long been off the menu.

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