I dragged my sorry cold-ridden self into the fishmongers this afternoon and was confronted with a truly Dickensian sight. Huge bubbling pots of lobsters, the pink cooked fish thrown into steaming piles, sleek fresh quicksilver salmons stacked up like glittering torpedoes, eerie wide mouthed carp and best of all, I thought, a bucket of live eels. They were slithering around snapping those prehistoric looking jaws of theirs and I figured there was something I could get my head around, fish so fresh it was still wriggling when thrown in the hot oil. Brilliant Idea. So when the fishmonger sporting a very fine mohican pulls one those slippery suckers out and asks me if I want him killed and cleaned, I'm all cocky and shake my head knowingly. He stares at me a moment. You ever done this before? he asks. Nope, says I. Trust me, he says you don't want to be doing this at home and off he goes to dispatch my fish. 30 seconds later I am handed a still wriggling plastic bag and told to have a Merry Christmas. I kid you not, that fish carried on thrashing about for a good 5 minutes as I walked back to the office.
So, I get the eel home and having spent sometime researching how to cook it I pull him out of his bag and he instantly flies out of my hand into the fruit bowl about 5 feel away from me. They weren't joking about how slippery these fish are. I manage to get a firm grip on him, I even had some pliers as advised by many other cooks, in order to skin the bugger. First, he slips this way and then he slips that away. I simply cannot get the thing to stay still. I try pinning him down with a knife, holding him down with a tea towel. I am frankly at a loss. I have been trying for the best part of an hour now and I fear that the combination of eel mucus and my head full of cold may be the undoing of me. I'll persevere after I finish this up otherwise I may have to hide him in the freezer or something, the shame of being beaten by a slippery fish may be too much to bear.