Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Whitebait Season

Lately the whitebait has been available in the South Island. This seafood delicacy is a rare and expensive treat for a city dweller, and when I have a feed of it I always think of Janet, because she loved her whitebait too. And she had a special recipe; her whitebait patties were the most delicious way to eat whitebait that I ever came across. They were so light, and they melted in your mouth.

There was a saying in our family, "Baby Frame is hungry." Apparently the doctor who had delivered Janet had made that comment about the newborn both to her mother Lottie and to hospital staff, and for 8o years the family kept saying it about Nini/Jean/Janet.

Janet did love her food, but could another reason that the pronouncement was so memorable, have been because it was made by Dr Emily Siedeberg, New Zealand's first woman medical doctor? It seemed to have been auspicious that baby Janet Frame was delivered by such a remarkable person, who quickly became one of the family heroes, along with Michael Joseph Savage, the first Labour Prime Minister, who was the figurehead for the proud New Zealand tradition of Social Welfare.

I used to watch Janet making the whitebait patties, but I never paid attention to the recipe which of course she knew off by heart after a lifetime of preparing them a certain way. I remember she used eggs, and cornflour, which is probably why they were so fluffy and light.

I still haven't found that particular whitebait recipe. I've found a handwritten whitebait recipe Grandma Lottie wrote in her poetry notebook, but it's for something she called 'whitebait savouries', in a baked case, and it doesn't sound as good as the patties.

People sometimes ask if I think we'll discover another Frame novel. Never mind the novel - what about the whitebait pattie recipe?

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