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Ben Trovato

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Looking forward to having whales in my sarmies again

Japan, Norway and Iceland have killed more than 30000 great whales since 1986. And if you think that’s good news, wait until you hear this:

A new deal being negotiated behind closed doors could see a lot more whale meat on our plates come dinner time. To be honest, I haven’t sunk my teeth into a decent southern right steak since I was a child. As a special treat, my mother would buy us whale meat. I remember it clearly. It came in a yellow box with a caricature of a blue whale on the front. The whale was spouting and grinning. It might even have been winking. It was the happiest whale I had ever seen. It was the only whale I had ever seen.

At some point, I discovered that this tasty cetacean snack was meant as pet food. Thanks, mom. Having the other kids chase me down the street and prod me with sharp sticks was a lot of fun, but being called “Moby Dick” and “Blubberbutt” really boosted my self-esteem.

I had no idea where the whale in my sarmies came from. I tried asking my mother the other day but she has recently adopted a position of denying everything and it was hard enough getting her to acknowledge that she had a son at all.

I never thought to inquire about the origins of my lunch at the time. I was just so happy to have something to eat, even if it was cat food. Then, one day, whale was no longer served in my house. I can’t remember what replaced it. Tortoise, probably. It was the end of an era. I lost 180kg and girls stopped asking to see my blowhole.

The whaling station on the Bluff shut down in 1975 – 70 years after Jacob Egeland, the Norwegian consul in Durban, and his sidekick Johan Bryde formed the South African Whaling Company. If you think the beach front smells bad today, you don’t want to know what it was like when the Scandinavians were up to their elbows in sperm whale.

In their first year, they harpooned 106 of the shrimp-scoffing brutes. Always eager to please, a pod of whales got together off Umhlanga and voted to name themselves after Bryde, of whom they had grown particularly fond as a result of his remarkably good aim. A clean head shot, every time. Whales appreciate this sort of attention to detail.


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