The perils of seafood
August 7, 2013

I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have, that most of my posts are mad raves about fab food. Whether fine dining, or simple homemade fare, it’s the things that you love that inspire you to write something (well, that’s the case for me anyway).

So, in a break from the norm I’m going to write something that’s not a glowing review of a fab meal. Well, the meal was rather good actually, but what it prompted wasn’t all that great…. bear with me and all will become clear.

On a recent jaunt to St Ives, we decided there had to be a meal that involved seafood. And lots of it.

We both love strange slimy things in shells and where better to get it than right by the sea. Obviously, we forgot we were in one of the best, most popular places to get fish and hadn’t booked, taking us – after many pitiful looks as we were turned away – to a little backstreet and a slightly lesser-known establishment (which shall remain nameless).

Imagine our excitement at the prospect of a huge seafood platter. The description was tempting enough – oysters, mussels, tiger prawns hot, prawns cold, calamari, clams. So we ordered a bottle of chilled vino and waited for the epic fishy feast to arrive.

And arrive it did – on two platters.

seafood platters

Oysters balanced on little hillocks of salt, mussels in a creamy garlicky soup, huge huge prawns nearly the size of lobsters, cooked in garlic butter. The list went on. It was amazing. And throughout, we commented on how fresh and delicious it tasted.

Ninety minutes later, enjoying a post-dinner beverage in a local public house, I found myself getting hotter and hotter, struggling to concentrate on a conversation and desperately needing to leave the packed room. Ten minutes later, and the seafood platter had left the building, so to speak.

There began four hours of hell – nothing quite gets you the same way that a dodgy prawn (or clam, or mussel, or squid) can. I’ve had food poisoning before, but never from fish. Normal food poisoning is bad, but I’m convinced this is worse.

It’s not just the sickness, but the shivers, the fever and the delirium that gets you. Sitting on the ground in the middle of a Cornish campsite, while trying to recover enough energy and balance to make it to the conveniences is one of the least-pleasurable experiences I have endured in recent months, it has to be said. Luckily for me, it only lasted one night, and I was well enough – albeit exhausted – to spend the day out the next day.

So why am I sharing this hellish experience? Well, I guess it goes to show that even fab food can have bad effects, and has opened my eyes to the fact it only takes just one little crustacean to ruin your day. We still don’t know which part of that platter brought me to my knees, and Mr Manning (typically) was absolutely fine. I’ve not eaten seafood since then (three weeks ago) but I’m determined it won’t spoil my love of such a delicious area of gastronomy.

Perhaps it’s just a salutory lesson in respect for what we eat. Good food isn’t just about fancy ingredients and pretty presentation. It’s about well-sourced fresh produce and respecting the fact that quite often, it’s something that’s been living once, and has all the sick-making, disease potential that everything else does. It’s definitely reminded me that our bodies aren’t always happy with what our heads want to put in them.

Having said that, the reason why I haven’t named the offending establishment is that these things happen. Mr M and I are pretty good and identifying dodgy food, especially fish, and neither of us had picked out whatever it was that struck me down. Whatever it was, it must have been small to have released me from its grip within hours rather than days, so who would have known? The food was delish, well prepared (for the most part) and cooked pretty-damn perfectly, so I don’t hold anyone responsible apart from the little blighter who had gone a bit grotty.

Needless to say, it’s the most memorable bit of seafood I’ve had!