This jarring delicacy from the winter 2008 issue follows Todd Ford, a forty-something fishmonger who finds himself suddenly alone when his wife runs off with a biscuit factory manager. In her absence, Todd finds companionship in a beached eel he comes across by chance and rescues. They make an odd couple (Think about it: A fish butcher and an eel together), but with her in tow he slowly crests back from his saturnine existence. However, as we soon find out, this happiness proves chimeric and friable.
Author Emily Bromfield’s writing here is spry, transitioning sure-handedly from some oddball comedy to a bit of romance to the story’s ultimate tragedy. There’s even a bit of a cookbook quality here and there (Note to non-Anglophiles: be prepared for mentions of some British food: jammy dodgers, bakewells, vinegar crisps, etc.). Bromfield also does great work with her main character, nicely distilling Todd to his core: an odd fellow with an intensity to his emotions (he seems at times rather out of true, non compos mentis), such an intensity that will lead to the story’s tragic outcome.
Overall, “One Way to Cook an Eel” is a worthwhile read, an affecting story that shows the devastating lengths to which a lonely man will go to retain companionship.
As a primer, here are a few things to keep in mind as you go through the story: Todd’s job; black pearl eyes; the smell of vanilla and apricot; kitchen knives; and the fact that captured eels “yearn for home, the tropics’ warm waters, and will slither over land if need be to get back, spawn, and die.”
Rediscover or read “One Way to Cook an Eel“ for the first time.