When I was in school, we often made of fun city kids who thought that fishes in the sea looked like the breaded Findus fish sticks they were being served at dinner. Now I realize it could have been a 1980s urban legend, used to emphasise a point about processed food and sheltered children. During this decade, kid-friendly frozen food designed for kids and overworked parents was getting popular and there was a growing gap with our grand-parents’ generation who still ate fresh food bought the very same day at the market.
We were “city kids” too, but with an easy access to the seaside, a 45-minute drive from Nantes. We knew what fishes looked like—fast and lovely in the water, kind of creepy-looking once fished out. We spent entire weekends climbing mussel-covered rocks and looking for tiny grey or pink shrimps, crabs, oysters or clams. We brought buckets of seashells back home. My grand-mother pretended to cook them but served a fresher and bigger version at dinnertime… bought at the market.
Now it’s my turn to take Mark explore the beach at low tide. The timing was perfect: the sea was at it lowest, exposing all the rocks and the shallow puddles of water.
First, we found a crab, a tiny little thing that ran away sideways when I tried to pick it up. “Mark, look!”
“It’s going to bite me.”
“Nope. First, it’s too small for that, second, crabs don’t bite—they pinch. But you can hold this one, it won’t hurt you.”
“Oysters. Seashells. See, the animal lives inside the shell.”
“It’s going to bite me!”
“Trust me: nothing around here is going to hurt you.”
“Okay, remember what I just said about ‘nothing here is going to hurt you’? Come over here and don’t touch that one. It’s a big jellyfish. It stings. So touch anything you want but jellyfishes.”
I don’t like jellyfishes. At least, the kind we get around here isn’t deadly like these Australian stingers. These are scary motherfuckers.
Then we walked to the harbour where—magic!—there was no water. Boats were sitting there, in inches of thick grey mud.
“Eh! Some people pay money to be covered in mud!”
My feet were muddy-yucky but I’m sorry to report my skin isn’t any smoother. And we didn’t eat any of the animals we found, but at least Mark learned something about the world we live in!