Fanny wants to have a quiet word about something extremely sensitive, it's come to that point in our relationship. We've been skirting around the topic for a couple of years, but something has been simmering under the surface, and it's not on the stovetop. We just can't ignore it any longer, no matter how hard we try. We mustn't fight the urge. It's not even something that's popped up, until now. Being thoroughly British it's not normally something we dare to blab about in public, but Fanny insists our relationship will be stronger if we just get it all out in the open. We need to talk about s.e.x. There I've said it, almost.
She means 'of fish' you see. I think. As you know it's not something that appeals to me, and I really don't want to be chatting to Fanny about 'intimate bits' but the whole of part 20 is dedicated to it. It's filthy. She starts off by telling us off as we wash 'them' too much, and cleanse away all the flavour and the blood. Keep them as nature intended for as long as possible. On the surface she may seem to be passing on every tidbit of knowledge she possesses about creatures from the sea, but on another level it's all a mask for well placed euphemisms for something way deeper than the ocean. She starts off insisting that we must 'stand firm for cocks'.
Cock Crabs. Apparently those who are experienced in these matters demand them, even if they sometimes choose hens. Only if they are lobsters. The problem I find with hidden messages is that you can sometimes get very confused. And flustered. It's like the Birds and Bees. Fanny maintains it's all very logical though. Hens you see like to throw their legs in the air, exposing their 'inner flesh' while their juices ooze everywhere, leaving 'everything' soft and soggy. It turns out she means in the cooking pot. Back to lobsters, she asks that you get the fishmonger to throw them around a bit on their marble surface so you can 'see their behinds'. As with the human race, Fanny says, the broad bottomed ones are female and the narrow male. Naughty fishmongers will try to keep the big bottomed girls for themselves, and palm you off with the slim cocks for the same price. So, inspect their bottoms, then you'll be able to take advantage of their cherished pink eggs. I'm getting all hot.
It's not all smut though, Fanny reminisces about taking Johnnie to Paris in the springtime, which seems much more innocent and wholesome. Until, that is, they hook up with another couple to enjoy some 'scallops'. It's a life I know nothing about. Just when it was all getting seemingly romantic, Fanny moves on to dark rooms. Yes. Seemingly they are essential when selecting fish. Fanny says most folks will give their fish a quick sniff to see if they are fresh. Fanny worries that we may from time to time have a cold though, so this test just won't do. The fish need to be lined up in the 'dark room' and if they are off they will become phosphorescent and you can see them 'glow with their own nastiness'. Sounds much more handy than relying on your nose alone, eh? Take Fanny's advice, run along and 'shut yourself up' in a dark cupboard with some dubious creatures and you will soon see.
It's all quite an education for a shy little vegetarian like me, trying desperately to unpack all the hidden meanings in Fannys chat. It's so meaningful for her. On the surface, it may seem to be just an opportunity to show off every fish shaped plate she owns, wonderfully photographed by Michael in the narrow wing of the 'little 17th Century cottage' she modestly calls home. Delve deeper and there are life lessons on every page, and shocking goings on in every nook and cranny of the bosom of that dwelling it seems. My head is spinning with all the additional clues to life, and euphemisms of wisdom. I think I'll just stay clear of all things fishy, stick to the vegetables and avoid talking about s.e.x. with Fanny ever again. If that's okay. Actually, where is that dark room, I need a lie down. On my own...