Trolling for Mackerel

by Lucy Dahl
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Photographer: Jean Gaumy

When I was a child, for two weeks every summer, my family would go to a small town in Norway called Fevik. We would stay in a hotel called the Strand Hotel, which is, now, a home for the elderly.

We were a large family, four children, (I was the youngest), my mother, my Norwegian father, and his sister, Else.

Our days were filled with expeditions that usually involved catching our lunch, by crabbing or trolling for mackerel which we would cook over a fire on a nearby island that was deserted, but for moss and heather.

I never understood why we couldn't stay at the hotel for lunch, like the other families. The explanation was always the same, it was too expensive and there were too many of us, something that I now fully understand.

Some days, we were unsuccessful with our fishing and so, my father would drive our little rented motorboat into a local fishing harbor, where we would buy bags of hot, fresh shrimps from the trawler. Still warm from being cooked on the boat within moments of being caught, these shrimp were utterly delicious. Already, by the age of five, I was an expert at de-shelling the tiny crustaceans.  

Lucy Dahl center with her sister Ophelia and her brother Theo








The grown ups, would sit at a table nearby, drinking aquavit with their shrimps as my siblings and I would sit on the dock, legs swinging, devouring our feast. We wouldn't speak, as we concentrated on our delicacy, first twisting off the head and sucking out the salty juice. Then carefully unwrapping the body and legs as one.  

 A shrimp with roe was an extra special treat, hundreds of tiny orange eggs, embedded along the shrimp's belly, which you have to manipulate with your tongue to pry them lose. Then a quick pinch of the tail, and pop it in to your mouth! The salty, tender delicacy was barely swallowed before we were on to the next. Still not a word spoken, as the shells slowly sank in to the sea, out of sight below us.

When the bag was empty and all that remained was scattered bits of shell, we would lie on our bellies and wash our hands in the sea water below. Then we would all contentedly climb back on to our little boat and I would sleep blissfully as we chugged back through the fjords to our little hotel. 


Lucy Dahl grew up in England. She is a screenwriter. Her movie "Wild Child" is being released in April 2008. She is now living in Los Angeles with her husband, children, two dogs and pet potbellied pig, Francis Bacon. 

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