I was in New Plymouth, leaning over a bridge, and looking down into the river. There was a guy standing in the river, holding a scoop net. An American lady asked me what he was doing
"He's collecting whitebait," I said.
"Oh, I know about whitebait," she said. "Tiny transparent tadpole-like fish."
"You fillet their eyes out," I said.
...and she believed me! For all of about one minute until I burst into laughter.
Filleting fish eyes from whitebait is one of the oldest kiwi jokes. One eats every part of the whitebait. Whitebait is a delicacy. And very expensive. In my Mum's day, whitebait weren't expensive at all. They were, well, cheap as chips. There is a strict season, very short, when you can harvest them.
Anyway, I went to the Sunday food and vegetable market this last Sunday (the market is alongside Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand) and, wow, there were whitebait fritters there. $12. I can take whitebait or leave them, but my Mum loved whitebait. So in recognition of her love of whitebait fritters, I always try to eat a fritter at the start of each season.
Above: the fritters being fried at the Sunday market.