What’s my favorite food? Just about anything that swims or crawls in the ocean, lake or stream. I would seem Kate and I have something else in common.
My father and his first wife came up the Alcan all the way from Nebraska to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1949 when the road was not much more than a rutted dirt path. He worked a lot of jobs to feed his very quickly growing family, but a lot of our food came from the wild. Hunting and fishing and filling the freezers was how we survived the long, lean winters. It was a lot of work, but it was always fun. It was actually vacation for us kids, even though we had somewhat of a task-master father who was very worried about filling those freezers.
When I was very young, my two next older siblings (10 and 11 years older respectively) would go crabbing in the tide pools on the Homer Spit. I learned how to find them and catch them by hand without getting pinched before I was 6 years old. Some of my earliest, fondest memories were those fishing trips with Dad and my brothers. Then later, my dad and my nephews and nieces – who were actually around my age.
One summer was devoted to salmon fishing, when there were huge runs and we could snag them legally. Some years if there was enough money, we chartered a boat and caught halibut (149 lbs was my biggest) and ling cod and black bass.
There was one year I remember, and I must have been no more than five or six, when my mom actually came on the trip, and someone – I think it was my pretty older sisters – procured a huge batch of fresh shrimp from one of the shrimping boats that docked. Right there in the campground, we had a shrimp feed.
Then there were the years that we went to our little secret spot on the Old Denali Highway for grayling fishing. These are not fish you put in the freezer. This is for fun, and I remember eating fried grayling and pancakes for breakfast and fried grayling and mashed potatoes for dinner. Oh, those were good times, and we usually had huge family gatherings there, too, with uncles, aunts, and tons of cousins – we’re a good Catholic family, you know? *grin
So now, seafood is a comfort food for me, and I still love, love, love it! Although my tastes have expanded past what you can catch in Alaska. I spent a few years living in Ontario and would take a trip to Maine every fall with my mom. I was 27 before I tasted my first lobster. Oh…wow! And haddock, which to me is a lot like halibut…love it! I had calamari for the first time while living in Ontario, and I’m hooked. I honestly haven’t had any kind of seafood that I didn’t like…until I came across crawfish.
My daughter and I were in Williamsburg, Virginia. We were attending a dinner theater there, and the buffet supper had everything on it I could have imagined, including crawfish, which I’d never had an opportunity to try before. I put one on my plate and took it back to the community table where we were seated. One of the women across from me told me what to do with it… Tear of the head and suck it.
I tore off the head and just couldn’t do it. I’m adventurous, but the stuff that came out kind of made me gag, so I laid it on my bread plate. The boy, about eight years old, seated across from me said, “Oh, that’s just wrong,” and the woman across from me laid her napkin over the tortured little corpse.
A friend of mine who was raised in Louisiana told me later you can eat the tail – which was what I thought you were supposed to do originally – and didn’t have to suck the head. So…
My daughter and I wound up at Super Buffet in Bellingham, WA during a Sunday shopping trip “south of the border.” They had every kind of seafood I could possibly want, plus some! And they had crawfish. I got one, along with calamari, baked oysters – I really don’t like raw oysters, simply because of the texture, same reason I can’t eat sashimi. The flavor is fine; the texture gags me – steamer clams, shrimp and octopus. I carefully peeled the tail and ate it. It was fine, but really not that impressive. It does look like a tiny lobster tail, but has a very, very mild flavor. Like a very bland shrimp.
I also tried a deep fried frog’s leg! I do like to try new things, and I’ve always been curious about frog’s leg, stating that given the chance, I would try it. Yep, to me it tasted like chicken. I did a take-out container for my hubby, and got him one frog leg – my daughter liked it so well she went back for a second one – and he didn’t like it at all, but I suspect it’s mostly mental. I realized afterwards I should have not told him what it was till after he ate it.
So, I eat seafood whenever it’s available and I can afford it. It fills me with wonderful memories from home, and making new memories with those I’m with when I try something new.
Stay tuned in the next few days for my easy seafood chowder recipe.