Regardless of my age or where I am, whitebait always takes me back to being a child in Hokitika.
There, for the months of September and October, dad’s and grandads dotted the streets, cycling or driving down to the river armed nets, waders and oilskins.
It was always the signal of spring, of warmer evenings and the start of our local athletic season.
We used to play alongside the bank, watching the slow moving procession of men quietly working their way along and got excited about untying the end of the net and emptying the catch, hoping for other secret treasures to have found their way in.
I guess there were some women in there as well but I don’t remember seeing any.
Whitebait was plentiful – our waterways were clean and a safe home for fish – enough to justify taking a very large metal bucket to collect them in.
Stray cockerbullies with a few whitebait for company would often end up in our fish bowl and a few of the fish were shared with the cats.
Patties were cooked and sandwiched between slices of fresh white bread and butter.
As with anything in good supply we often got sick of endless nights of it and by the end of the season we were asking for anything other than whitebait for dinner.
We had whitebait for dinner last night, selfishly we waiting until the kids were in bed as at $160 kg I didn’t feel inclined to be sharing too much. Regardless of price, patties should be packed with whitebait, I use a mere sprinkle of flour and separated eggs. The result is light puffy patties, full of whitebait and nostalgia.