Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Salmon Solutions

This post is a moldy-oldy from 1999, and is dedicated to my cousin-in-law, Virgil, who has just completed his first year of successful salmon fishing.  He has yet to learn the importance of temperance in the collection of salmonids.

Way back when, in prehistoric times, things were much better for the hunter-gatherer.  Aside from large, carnivorous animals, pestilence, starvation and premature deaths from poor dental hygiene, things were good.  The family member who hunted and fished was not only appreciated, but revered.  Hunter-gatherers (HG’s) didn’t have any trouble getting the family to eat whatever they dragged back to the cavominium.

“Gortak!  You home!  What you bring back?”
“Gortak, mighty hunter-gatherer, bring back skunk.  Found dead already, which is good thing.  Gortak smell better than last time find skunk.”

At that point, the entire Gortak family would rejoice at their great fortune in having such a good provider.  It was simple in those glorious days: eat what showed up on the cave step, or go hungry.

Nowadays, those of us that can’t resist our HG urges are viewed as the family yoke to bear.

“How’d you do, dear?” comes the timorous question upon the HG’s return.

“Caught my limit!” 

There is not a shred of jubilation displayed by the family of the modern HG upon such a proclamation.  Instead of even the most modest sign of good cheer, sighs that border on the edge of soft weeping issue forth.

In our household, following years of debate, testing and compromise, we’ve finally come to grips with my HG successes.  We have adopted a policy referred to as “YKI-YCI-YCI”- officially pronounced, “icky-icky-icky”- which stands for “You killed it- you clean it- you cook it.”  The policy goes into effect whenever I cross the threshold with anything that isn’t wrapped in plastic and sporting a price sticker. 

The manner in which the HG has fallen in esteem over the eons was the topic of conversation at a recent NoRSMen meeting (NoRSMen- North Road Supportive Men: a benevolent social group dedicated not only to the appreciation of cheap cigars and discount beer, but also the proper and adequate appreciation of the hunter-gatherer effort).

All three members present at the meeting, Knucks Mahoneigh, Blizzard Bob (B.B.) and myself, are professed HG’s.  Knucks and I were commiserating on the ingratitude heaped upon our efforts, particularly in regards to the gathering of fish.

“It’s not like I make them eat fish every night of the week,” Knucks grumbled.  “In fact, I’m lucky if the kids will eat fish once a week.  Were your kids like that?”

“Absolutely,” I answered, “but we ate lots of salmon while the kids were home.  The secret is learning how to approach the way the fish is served.  I always gave our kids a choice.  I’d cook up a mess of Brussels sprouts and a batch of salmon, and they could pick one or the other.”

“Did it work?”

“Yeah, but now, neither one of ‘em will pay us a visit if they think there’s a speck of salmon in the house.”

While Knucks weighed the consequences of ruining his future relations with his children against the chance to increase his salmon intake, B.B. joined in the conversation.

“It’s the same way at my house, I could eat fish four nights a week, easy, but Donna’s not much for seafood of any kind.  And believe me, I’ve tried everything.”

“Whadya mean by everything?” Knucks asked. 

“Well, I’m not a half bad cook, ya know, so I figured it was the ordinary preparation that was making Donna turn her nose up at my fish.  So I set about to correct that little problem.”

“So, I take it you got yourself some good cookbooks?” Knucks asked.

“Naw. I just started makin’ up recipes.  I’m what you’d call a ‘natural experimental chef.’  It’s a gift, really.  That and the fact my creativity isn’t hurt none with any sort of fancy training.”

Knucks and I asked for specifics.  

“Well, one thing that comes to mind is the salmon burritos.  It was a stroke of genius in simplicity, but Donna didn’t like ‘em.”

“Maybe too much salsa?” I suggested.

“Nope.  She said it was the refried beans thing.”

The only sound in the room was the crackling of our burning El Stinko cigars as B.B. thought for a few seconds before continuing.

“Another thing was the salmon spaghetti.  Ya know how if you over cook salmon, it sorta falls apart?  You oughta see the pinky-pasty mess you get after you stir a simmering pot of spaghetti sauce chock full of salmon a few times!  I tried spaghetti and salmon balls, too.  Pretty much the same deal: the salmon balls fell apart soon as the sauce hit ‘em.”

“Did you make the salmon balls with crackers?” I asked, thinking back on the only recipe I’d ever seen on the subject.

“Yeah.  Mighta worked better with soda crackers, but the only thing we had in the house at the time of inspiration was Graham crackers.”

Knucks and I had to allow that Graham crackers do fall apart rather easily.

“Then there was the time I made creamed chipped salmon on toast, but Donna isn’t into heavy breakfasts.  Tried pretty much the same thing as a dinner dish, with a salmon and white gravy over rice.  Might’ve been better if I’d used the gravy without the little sausage chunks in it...  But all those days are behind us now.  Donna is even getting into the whole salmon thing this year.  She told me to bring as many salmon home as I want. She went out and bought a pressure cooker and several cases of jars.”

B.B. seemed very pleased with Donna’s new attitude, and we congratulated him on his good fortune.  However, after the meeting Knucks told me Donna had confided to his wife, Stacie, that every friend and relative of B.B. and hers in the Lower 48 is getting a case of canned salmon for Christmas.

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