My motto for this year’s A to Z is “Animals in my life – stuffed or alive”.
Growing up in Cologne meant many trips to the river Rhine, which crosses the town South to North. When I was a girl, I liked watching the great ships go by. My father – always the teacher – told me where they were coming from, or where they were headed. What I didn’t like was the smell. The water stank terribly of all the chemicals that it had picked up while passing many industrial plants on its way to the North Sea.
Later, enviromental protection became more important. One of my husband’s hobbies is fishing, and of course he tried to coax some fish out of the Rhine as well. When we got together in 1989, he told me that eels where one of the few fish that could be found in the Rhine, because they are really tough. But he didn’t even think of eating them back then, because they too had a disgusting chemical smell on them. Even Tobi, the dog of my husband’s family at that time, didn’t go near them.
Slowly, the quality of the water improved. There were of course setbacks – in 1986 a fire in a swiss industrial plant caused toxic extinguishing water to leak into the river, and almost all fish died. It was a horrible sight. But nature always finds a way to fight back, and finally fish life returned to the Rhine.
For a short time, we lived near the Rhine in 1994. My husband seized the opportunity to go fishing a lot, and he noticed that eel were not the only kind of fish he caught anymore. But eating them wasn’t an option.
But finally, in the last years of the 20st century, he presented his family with an eel he deemed safe enough for eating! I don’t eat fish, so I can just tell you everybody said the fish tasted well and nobody fell ill afterwards :-).
So, eel are no beloved pets in my life. But they are my heroes, because they were and are important for the ecological balance in my hometown. Thank you, eels, for keeping up with this $hit we humans caused!