Crab fisherman need department’s help after Ophelia

My friends, the local crustacean fishermen of West Cork’s Seven Heads, have still received no help from the Department of the Marine in replacing equipment lost during Storm Ophelia, writes Damien Enright.

Following an article in The Irish Examiner on November 4 detailing the losses, sympathy was expressed by the Government, but there has been no action.

To make a sustainable living, Colin and Ken Cashman need to have up to 500 pots in the water. Pots cost €50 each, ropes about the same — €20,000 worth was lost or damaged. The shortfall threatens to make their livelihood no longer viable.

Are we to lose yet more of our Irish inshore fishing families? All last week, Colin tried to reach the Department of the Marine officer supposedly dealing with the case, but the phone wasn’t answered.

Not only are the fishermen losing money but so is the exchequer. Brown crab is one of our most valuable exports, particularly claws and whole, vacuum-packed, pasteurized crab. Live crabs are also exported: They live for 20 days in suitable conditions.

”But there’s little market for whole crabs in Ireland, only for the claws,” Ken told me.

Give me a crab any day before a lobster! But a whole crab. The white meat is nice, but the brown meat inside is the crème de la crab suprême. I’ve never understood the status of lobster:

I think it has to do with the real, pretended, or wannabe status of the people who eat them. Half the time — at least overseas, for example in the Caribbean resorts— they’re eating crawfish/crayfish, even less tasty than lobster, but don’t seem to know it.

However, appearance over flavour; the look of the plate and the roubles they’re paying is the thing. Lobsters or craw/crays look good with flutes of white wine — some diners favour champagne.

However, everyone to their own. A dollop of crab pate, brown meat mixed with a little white (no garlic, mayonnaise, or bread added, just crab solo) might be too authentic for some tastes.

I agree, of course, that a lobster looks more suitable for an occasion. Its long antennae, pink carapace, flanged tail, and white body, split open and laid flat on the plate, does cut the mustard in terms of appearance.

A posh eatery can hardly present a diner of a humble crab, sitting squat on a cedar board, along with a hammer, lever, skewers, and assorted knives, plus cutlery, assembled alongside.

And it couldn’t have diners busting crab claws, levering back carapaces and extracting soft meat cakes with pretty, pastry-crust- pattern edges in precise replica of the shell, along with the brownish, super-tasty goo that is also encountered.

No, crab evisceration is an exercise strictly to be practiced in the privacy of the home.

It is best performed with a glass of wine close to hand, and a number of containers conveniently close by, one for white meat, one for brown, one for shell, gills, mouth-parts, and other matter.

The proximity of a bowl of water is also advisable; this, for hand dipping. Ultimately, when the white meat, taken from the claws and mined from the interior, is mixed with the brown meat (and, sometimes, with some coral, i.e. eggs or ‘berries’), the only way of insuring that not a speck of shell or cartilage has found its way into the mix is for the eviscerator
to knead through the whole again and again with well-scrubbed hands so as to feel the smallest smidgeon of the foreign body and remove it, thus insuring a smooth pate of perfect spreading consistency.

This is how to make a perfect, irreproachable crab pâte! It is the way I make it myself.

It was the way the pâte in a small glass jar artistically labelled West Cork Crab Pate was created especially for carriage to in-laws in the Czech Republic, where they know neither crabs nor sea.

However, it was confiscated at Cork Airport.

The son pleaded with the officers.

“It is not explosive... it is not pink Semtex that I am bringing aboard your plane, but the flavour of the ocean. Look at it, smell it, taste it. Here, I’ll eat a spoonful of it myself to demonstrate that it is neither explosive not noxious, but a delicacy created for the Christmas table of folk who have never experienced the unsurpassable frisson of West Cork crab-meat!”

Plead all he might, they nevertheless took it from him and threw it in a bin (from which I suspect they later retrieved it, put it in the fridge and produced it, hey presto!, to garnish canapés at a Christmas Day soiree.)


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