When I was in primary school I had this massive crush on a guy called Daniel. He had just moved to our little religious private school from the state school across the road. The rumour going around was his parents wanted smaller class sizes to better his education. Later I found out it was because he had intense Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and kicked the principal in the shins before telling her in no uncertain terms to get bent. Needless to say their relationship got a bit awkward after that. He was super sporty and had absurdly well-developed abdominals for an 11 year old. He’d already smoked his first cigarette and was one of the only kids whose parents let him put golden streaks through his thick black bowl cut. All the teachers at school disapproved, but Daniel was way too badass to care. I on the other hand, was a little chubby with a kind of rat face. I had such hugely oversized teeth it looked like I was wearing my Polish Grandad’s falsies. But this was amid the utopia that is pre-puberty. Far before self-loathing and insecurity set in. When all it took to feel good was a hug from mum and a well done honey, from Dad. So naturally, I thought I was pretty great and that Daniel would fall over himself at so much as the thought of our long and happy future together.
I made it my sixth grade mission to win Daniel’s affections. This was no easy feat given our strict dress code. We had to wear these stiff starched blue and white check shirts with our school crest emblazoned on the right pocket, teamed with dark blue knee length culottes, white socks and black polished shoes. We always looked like a stunted army of Smurfs as we lined up at parade each morning to dutifully march to our homerooms. I did the best with what I had, forging individuality one bedazzled hair clip at a time. But trying to impress Daniel all the time was exhausting and I often crumbled under the pressure. One day I had my mum specially do my hair into these two perfect braids. Held firmly in place with some foul smelling goop, no amount of lunch break tag would unravel them – they were glorious. I had perfectly loosened two thin strands of hair at the front, slicking them down my cheeks to frame my face. As I was on the bus, feeling particularly fabulous, I looked down at my nipple-length braids and realised my mum had accidently used two different coloured scrunchies; one white, one blue. This was long before asymmetry was trendy. I spent the rest of the day crouching behind water bubblers and burying my head in my math text to avoid Daniel. Operation ‘love me’ was taking longer than I expected, but I wasn’t too stressed. The following week was our end of year school camp – the place where many an 11 year old experienced their first slimy kiss.
I packed all of my best clothes meticulously - a process involving a clever dummy bag to throw my mum off my trail, that I then had to stealthily repack in the dark of night. We were heading to this remote eco-friendly island to sleep in rickety wooden cabins, and I knew she would not consider my brand new skate shoes appropriate camping wear. But this was the one chance I had to shed my culottes and look incredible. As our ferry chugged into the bay, I was off my face giddy. We changed into our wetsuits for a pre-dinner snorkel in the ocean, and stealing a sidelong glance at Daniel’s washboard abdomen, I was chuffed with my choice of life partner. But as we padded clumsily down to the water in our flippers, I realised my impending romance had gone to my head and I’d forgot to use the bathroom. The swishing waves and splashing sixth graders only amplified my desperation.
In hindsight, I should have just sneakily gone in the ocean and been done with it. But as I gloomily floated around, all I could picture was taking my wetsuit off in front of everyone and yellow wee gushing forth. I would be the laughing stock of the class and Daniel would never speak to me again. I decided I would swim out deep until the water lapped my shoulders. I unzipped my wetsuit and weaselled out into the cold water, feeling immediate relief as a warm current encircled my lower half. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to put on a wet wetsuit. But even on land it is near impossible, let alone while you are submerged to the neck in water. Once I realised no amount of thrashing seal-like movements would get me back into my suit, I freaked out and swam towards the shore. As I got out and raced - wetsuit slung over my shoulder, still wearing my snorkel - towards the cabins, raucous laughter erupted from the ocean. I was mortified, a fish out of water. And the only time you should take a fish out of water is if you plan to eat it.
- 2 pieces Tilapia (white fish), cut into strips
- ½ cup rice flour
- ¾ cup desiccated coconut
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 2 beat eggs
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup cooked peas
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 pickle
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon French mustard
- Two potatoes, cut into chips and rinsed
- Coconut oil
- Coat the chips in coconut oil, season with salt and pepper and bake in a moderate oven for about 40-50 minutes. Flip halfway if you want a next level crunch.
- Coat all of the fish in rice flour and set aside.
- Combine the curry, coconut, salt and pepper and breadcrumbs and pile on a plate.
- Dip each piece of floured fish in the egg mix before rolling around in breadcrumbs.
- Shallow fry each piece of fish in about 1cm of coconut oil and set aside on paper towel.
- For the pea mash, combine the pickle, garlic, peas, lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper in a food processor.
- Pile fish on top of mash and add a good handful of chips. Serve with lemon (and parsley if you want to be fancy).