The Whitebait fritter. A quintessential New Zealand classic. So simple, so unique and so highly sort after that these tiny delicate silvery white fish can sell for as high as $130/kg. My Dad is what you may call a whitebait enthusiast. His secret is patience and persistence and a dedication to hunting, gathering and sharing his catch with appreciative mouths. In my Father’s mind, whitebait is never to be sold – despite the fact that it is often genuinely treated as gold.
Late last year as I embarked on an incredible European feasting adventure, these miniscule google-eyed ‘gold’ were taken along for the ride. They were to be used as our highest offering of gratitude, a gesture of ‘thank you’ to our beautiful Italian friends who would be hosting us in Rome. We knew full well that they would downright refuse to receive any form of monetary payment, but we also knew their love and appreciation for good food.
So a frozen zip-lock bag of NZ whitebait set out on their journey abroad. Three flights, twenty seven hours, and several time zones later after magically by-passing American Biosecurity, somehow and somewhere my whitebait filled suitcase GOT LOST! Greeted by my Godmother, we burst into fits of laughter as I explained about my missing case of whitebait. We reported the lost luggage, but there was no time to waste, we had Margherita pizza to eat and Chianti to drink! Days passed, and still no word of the wandering whitebait. I had no belongings, but with my tenacious appetite and hunger for discovery – I had everything I needed. Six glorious gluttonous weeks later my suitcase and I arrived home to NZ, seperately. My luggage had taken its own route, returning complete with a strong stench and a few extra friends. With a single pair of shoes, and the clothes on my back, I arrived full of inspiration, memories, stories, flavours and tastes. A trip to remember, a travel tale to never forget and a reminder, that it is people and our experiences that make us truly rich!