Friday, March 30, 2012

Trout on the grill and food memory

With vintage camera effect to capture the mood

It was a bit chilly tonight, but not chilly enough to keep me inside, so I thought the grill could serve a purpose. Given the near tragic circumstances of the dinner from the previous day, I needed to vindicate my abilities as a cook and to prove my worth as a provider for my hungry cubs. As much as my youngest 'cub' can be fussy (which warranted some painful text yesterday), there is one thing that she will eat greedily: fish.

I grew up in a household that did not like fish under most circumstances. My mum attempted to fry up some proper English kippers, once... and never again (it took two weeks to get the smell out of the house). She attempted canned salmon on many occasions which generally resulted in 'boos' from the peanut gallery. There is one food memory of my childhood related to fish that stands out true, vivid and in all respects, good. That is, freshly caught fish from a northern lake, dusted in flour and fried up in butter for breakfast. A long time ago, my dad was quite the angler. Not so much anymore, but in the late 1970's, we had a cottage on a lake called 'Kashabog'  that had some pretty good bass and pickerel fishing. We would get up with the sun, motor out to the weed beds to catch some small yellow perch to use as bait, then out to the deeper waters to catch 'the big one'. Us kids used nightcrawlers on hooks, but dad would cast out the live perch in hopes netting the legendary monster muskie that supposedly cruised the lake. My old man would smoke cigarette after cigarette, and after each one, flick the butt into the lake (a jarringly archaic way to treat a lake - how times have changed).  As we drifted down the centre of the lake, there would be a trail of floating, spent cigarette butts. Anyway, that's the way things were in the 1970's. We would usually end up with a couple of bass or pickerel which my dad would clean; a sort of entertainment in itself: bonk the fish on the head, cut it's head off, remove the fillets and toss the unwanted stuff into the lake for the turtles to eat. Then, buttery crispy fish for breakfast. It just doesn't get fresher than that (and never a cigarette butt in the fish).

The lake from my childhood - used to be good fishing

The legendary muskie - my dad never managed to catch one

With this memory in mind, I decided to pick up a nice fresh Ontario rainbow trout and cook it on the BBQ - a little outdoor activity reminiscent of the cottage. I stuffed the cavity with chives, parsley and bay leaf and tied it up so the herbs would steam inside. I made my usual tartar sauce which the kids love and made some quick oven fries. Oh, to behold my three year old tucking keenly into this dinner; a sight for my sore eyes. My six year old, ever the curious scientist type, proceeded to dismantle the fish's head at the dinner table. I certainly wouldn't discourage this behaviour (despite it being a little messy and slightly gross). I am trying to instill in my children the notion that food does not come from a packet. Almost everything we eat started as a living thing be it flora or fauna. My kids aren't grossed out by fish eyeballs - in fact they occasionally suck them right out of the skull. They love pork crackling and blood pudding and bone marrow. As much as they may have been a little bit spoiled by North America's penchant for bland and greasy processed food (especially so called 'chicken nuggets' - the bane of my existence), I hope that these forays into old school food provenance will be beneficial in the end. It's the best I can hope for I suppose. Tonight's observations are in everyway the flip side of yesterday's let down.

I am very much looking forward to the day I can catch some fish, gut them in front of the kids and fry them up fresh for breakfast just like my dad did. Trust me, I don't have a lot of good food memories, so I will cherish the few that I do have.  

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