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A Fine Kettle of Fish


Carrot Top
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Whether one considers it a fun activity, a practical neccesity, or even maybe a lazy waste of a perfectly good afternoon, the catching of a fish and all that follows along after is a rare experience that can offer "just a regular guy" (guy here being non-gendered, of course, as those who fish will understand) a direct connection from the natural world which our food springs from, to follow all the way to the table that fish will be placed upon in some hopefully delightful concoction to excite the tastebuds of those who wait upon it.

You don't need property with a hayfield to catch a fish, as you do for livestock to yield beef or lamb or pork. You don't need soil and seeds and shovels and paraphernalia and worries about damaging bugs and willful weather attacking your dinner, as you do with produce from a garden. You don't need to catch the cackling chicken to cut off its head and then pluck all the feathers off it for your chicken dinner. And so on and so forth.

What you need is simple. A rod and reel and line and hook. A worm or a piece of something that shines and glitters. A net, if you are so inclined. Maybe a spear if that's your style. A good sharp knife to gut and scale. A pan or a pot and a heat source. And a body of water, large or small, where fish live. A boat of some sort can bring more possibilities to the table.

The two other requirements are a bit more if'fy and difficult to summon at times. Patience, and a willingness to get dirty.

Put these things together and you have the makings of a fine kettle of fish, to be cooked in endless myriad manners, each final delicious bite filled with a sense of reality and knowingness that simply does not come in a plastic package, a cardboard box, or an aluminum can.

Do you have a fish story? How did you catch it, how did you clean it, how did you cook it, how did it taste?

And as the table was cleared, the dishes washed, the day done, how did you feel, about your day and your meal, which held that essence of earth in it?

P.S. If you have any annual traditions of fish dinners or fish frys where you *yourself* did not catch the fish but still got to eat it, those stories would be fun to hear, too. :biggrin:

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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the last "really fresh fish" that I had was caught in the lake seen in my avatar in the same season ...dead of winter

Our neighborhood was out ice fishing, ice skating, and rampaging with quads.

Mid afternoon we decided to have some lunch...the girls went shopping and the guys pulled in their fish and cleaned them. Grills were carried from decks down onto the ice and we started cooking up burgers and bass, both damn tasty and a fun day

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

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Grills were carried from decks down onto the ice and we started cooking up burgers and bass, both damn tasty and a fun day

Whoa! Now that's a fun neighborhood! :biggrin:

Do you remember the first fish you ever caught and cooked?

I remember the first fish I ever caught. It was in a canoe on a lake in Maine. Two of my three boy cousins had decided I needed to learn how to fish. I was seven years old.

It was so much fun going into the muddy area near the boathouse to dig for worms, I remember. :biggrin: That was probably the best part of all.

It didn't take long for us to catch a little fish of some sort. Then it got scary. The thing flopped around in the bottom of the canoe and I didn't know what to do. I got really nervous and scared and my older cousin took the fish in his hand and laughed deprecatingly and said "This is what you do", and he smacked the thing on the canoe seat so it passed out just flopping a tiny bit.

I was appalled. Fishing was supposed to be *fun* I thought. Blech. Horrors. The poor fish.

It got worse after that. My younger cousin hooked my bellybutton with his hook while he was trying to cast off. My bellybutton! I was bloodier than the little fish I'd caught, and I really wanted to go back to shore.

Finally they took me in, and the worst was yet to come. My aunt refused to cook the fish. Why, I could not imagine. (Now, being a bit older and maybe not wiser but perhaps a bit more tireder, I can imagine. )

The die had been set. Why fish, except to have something good to eat? I was very upset. And determined, as I stood there with mud in my lanky messy red hair, blood dripping from my little bellybutton exposed in my somewhat odd-looking bright-colored bikini, almost-dead gasping fish in the bucket my cousin held, that someday there would be more. More fish. More.

:laugh:

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I am so glad you started this thread. I have wonderful fish memories.

When I was a little girl, my Daddy would take me and my sister fishing during the spring and summer. He always seemed to know about a new pond, river, bayou, etc. We would see snakes and get eaten alive by mosquitoes and have a great time.

Once, he heard about this place where they had lot of commercial catfish ponds. They also had a few ponds they just stocked with a motley assortment of fish and the public could fish those ponds. For some reason, we did not have our regular worms that day, but instead were using frozen, baby shrimp. Well, we started fishing and in no time we were catching huge catfish hand over fist and having a great time. Suddenly, one of the owners ran up to us and told us we were at one of the catfish ponds instead of the open-to-the -public pond. That explained our catch. We released what we had hauled in and moved over to the correct pond, but didn't catch nearly as many fish. :raz:

My mother says the first time she ever saw her father with a fishing pole in his hands (meaning not working in the store or on the farm), he was walking back from his pond across the road with my and my sister. Rods in one hand and my hand in the other. It really touched my mother and now that he is gone, she always gettign teary eyed when she tells this story.

My Grandfather was always happy to take us fishing. We would go out in his little two-man boat and we would catch bream, bass, the occsasional catfish. I don't remember cleaning fish with my father (we may have thrown them back), but you always cleaned what you caught with my grandfather. His two sisters, my great-aunts, would also take us fishing on my granfathers pond. They said if it was big enough to have two eyes, it was big enough to keep.

When it came time to clean our catch, my grandfather would set us up at the doghouse. He had a flat-roofed dohouse and he would gut the fish and take off the heads and my sister and I would take tablespoons and scrape off scales.

My gramdmother was an excellent fish fryer. Everytime the whole family got together, she woudl fry up a huge mess of catfish, hushpuppies and french fries. My mother and her siblings would fight over the tails. We would eat until we almost burst.

Those are some of my fish "tails."

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. Epicetus

Amanda Newton

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Grills were carried from decks down onto the ice and we started cooking up burgers and bass, both damn tasty and a fun day

Whoa! Now that's a fun neighborhood! :biggrin:

Do you remember the first fish you ever caught and cooked?

you havent seen the 4th of July - over the lake - wars

The first "eating" fish I caught was at girlscout camp with a stick, string, and salami. The group ate it, I went to bed

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

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Despite the fact that I hail from the "Land of 10,000 Lakes", as Minnesota's license plates proudly proclaim, I don't fish. I lack the required patience.

My Grandfather, Father and Brother all fished, and I used to go along for the ride although I've never been that crazy about boats. The truth be told, I'm not even that fond of water either, at least until it's been made inro coffee. :wink:

I have friends to whom the Fishing Season Opener is a holiday second only in impotance to the first day of Deer Hunting! I always wished I could enjoy the sport, but I lack patience.

As for eating fish; the Walleye is locally considered to be the gold standard, although Bass and Trout have their devotees. Personally, I would rather have a basket of little breaded panfish filets, which resemble potato chips more than fish.

So, while I admire the trascendentalist aspects of fishing, it just ain't for me. :sad:

SB (atypical Minnesotan)

Edited by srhcb (log)
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When my son was 4, (he is now almost 16) he went fishing for the first time with his dad off one of the mini piers in Morro Bay, California where we were renting a vacation home with family. He came back with 3 small mackerel looking fish- oh so proud. I still carry the photo of him with one in each little hand holding them up for our admiration. Everyone told me to pitch them because they were so small and they were not big on fish and who knew about local pollution... My son's face fell to the ground, so I gutted and hosed them out and scraped them. Never having dealt with fish right out of the water I just did what made sense. Rubbed them with salt, stuck a lemon slice and some local fennel in the mini gut cavity and grilled them along with everyone else's steaks. I pulled off the fat fillets and peeled skin off, and my son and I enjoyed his first catch. The flesh was sweet and fresh and a lovely bite instilled in my food memory forever. Of course the spawn barely remembers!

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Boy. this one takes me back. When I was a kid we went fishing alot. We had a cabin on Lake Woodrow near the town of Caldwell in central Texas. A 75 acre private lake it was and it was just for fishing and swimming--heaven for a kid. I remember one particular fall night as extended family arrived for a big fishing event the next day. It was cool and you could hear the sound of geese honking overhead as they made their way to the rice fields west of Houston. The next day we paddled around the lake catching bass, crappie and blue gills with the occasional catfish. We cleaned them by cutting off their heads and then slitting their bellies with shears, taking care not to rupture their internal organs. Then we cleaned out their belly cavity with the sweep of a finger. Next we scaled them, which is a very messy task especially with a lot of fish. They were breaded with milk and cornmeal and shallow fried. It was a very fine kettle of fish. The memory has stuck to my brain for over 50 years.

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not fish, but I do crab in the summer with my family in maryland. Nothing is more simple than tying a chicken wing to a piece of string and than throwing that into the chesapeake bay. The problem is pulling up the chicken on a string up very gently so you can scoop it up with a really really long net. The most we ever catch is about 24 crabs after crabbing for 24 hours. No kidding.....

When I lived in san francisco (a long time ago) we used to catch rock crabs with a cage and we could catch about 100 in less than 12 hours.

sometimes when we go crabbing,we catch a few "baby" crabs. Last year I threw a few into a can of schaefer (after cutting it in half) and then threw the can into a fire and ate beer steamed baby crabs. Yes its illegal and don't worry I only ate like 5.

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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The last really fresh fish, and one I most remember, was from when I was sixteen and I lived on Guam with my dad. We would go camping on a local beach with another family. The "guys" would take the boat out in the bay that we camped on. All day we would watch the boat go here and there, they would be out there fishing, and drinking beer. We would chill on the beach, snorkeling, sunning, going about our daily camping activities. We used to camp like this a few times a year.

One perfect evening, my daddy, and Jim (the boat owner, head "guy" from our camping buddies) came back with a huge mahi mahi, cleaned and ready to grill. It was THE best fish I'd ever eaten, so meaty, so amazingly sweet and fresh. It was simply grilled with lemon, salt, and pepper. My stepmom made a fresh tomato salsa, with onions, peppers, diced cucumber, olive oil, lime juice, and cilantro, and we ate the grilled mahi steaks with that, and some grilled potatoes.

I've also eaten parrotfish like that, and some random local tropical fish, fresh from the boat like that. Nothing ever came close to that mahi mahi though.

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you havent seen the 4th of July - over the lake - wars

:biggrin: Sounds like something from a science fiction story . . . :laugh:

Personally, I would rather have a basket of little breaded panfish filets, which resemble potato chips more than fish.

Oof. And whoever made those for you had patience, too, believe me. :biggrin:

I pulled off the fat fillets and peeled skin off, and my son and I enjoyed his first catch. The flesh was sweet and fresh and a lovely bite instilled in my food memory forever. Of course the spawn barely remembers!

Mmm. He may not remember it exactly, but I'm sure he remembers it in his heart. :smile:

It was a very fine kettle of fish. The memory has stuck to my brain for over 50 years.

Your story made me sigh with pleasure, too. What a wonderful memory.

sometimes when we go crabbing,we catch a few "baby" crabs.  Last year I threw a few into a can of schaefer (after cutting it in half) and then threw the can into a fire and ate beer steamed baby crabs.  Yes its illegal and don't worry I only ate like 5.

Perfect cooking method, SheenaGreena! There's something about using what's available when fishing or crabbing that makes it that much more satisfying. :wink: Funny thing about crabs, though. Sometimes when you're trying to catch fish, all you can catch is the darn crabs and then you have to decide whether you're going to aggrevated at the things for "stealing your bait" or whether you're going to give in and just go crabbing which of course will make a fine meal too. :huh:

One perfect evening, my daddy, and Jim (the boat owner, head "guy" from our camping buddies) came back with a huge mahi mahi, cleaned and ready to grill.  It was THE best fish I'd ever eaten, so meaty, so amazingly sweet and fresh.  

Oooooh! Yeah! Mahi-mahi? I am so jealous. :laugh: I can imagine that was super, really super.

You reminded me of another fish story which I'll try to find time to post later . . . a big fish it was, but not one as delicious as a mahi-mahi.

............................................................................

P.S. heidih - What a beautiful "first post"! Welcome, and here's to many more. :smile:

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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When I was a little girl, my Daddy would take me and my sister fishing during the spring and summer. He always seemed to know about a new pond, river, bayou, etc. We would see snakes and get eaten alive by mosquitoes and have a great time.

Up North, we have shad coming up the rivers and streams in the Spring. Just about now, actually. Your mention of mosquitos made me remember a story about that which I've dredged up from the non-watery depths of my computer . . . :wink:

We approached the small stream in the sun-dappled woods with trepidation, the four of us, that Spring day some years ago. Often we played there, running around trees and swinging on the "Tarzan vine" that dangled over the stream, following small well-worn paths that ran alongside the grassy, muddy hills above where the water moved, always alert for something unimaginable that only the woods could hold. We were eleven years old that spring, most of us, but the world still seemed full of unknown possibilities. A man walking his dog through the woods would gain his own strange background of mystery after we ran to hide as he passed. . . the cows in the far field at the other end of the woods became bulls, ready to attack, wound and kill if any of us happened to be wearing red. . .so we had to look through the fence quickly then dash away shrieking as they approached.

This time our trepidation was based on something none of us had ever seen before in this small suburban stream, so narrow that we each could jump right over it. It was teeming with fish, silver fish, each one half as long as our arms. A solid stream of silver tumbled through the water, without stopping for a beat.

One of the boys ran to get his father.

"Shad!" he pronounced, as he got down on his knees to peer into the water. "Get down here and get some!"

He started pulling fish out of the water with his bare hands, and then, so did we. They were slippery and a little scary, but after a little practice, we were throwing them onto the grassy slope behind us too, laughing with hilarity, all soaking wet.

That day, I brought 22 shad home to my mother. She was not too thrilled, and I could not understand why, for I was quite proud.

"Bony", she said. "Nobody eats these. Trash fish."

But she cleaned some and froze the rest whole (where they eventually disappeared to is a mystery - we didn't eat them, that I know). There was roe in two of them - a soft pink mass of eggs that she designated "good to eat, it's gourmet."

The roe was delectable, briefly fried in butter with a squeeze of lemon on top.

The shad was. . .well. . .bony.

Shad, however, has a long history in the United States and still is eaten in the spring at collective community "Shad Bakes". . .over a wood fire, baked with bacon on top.

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oh and don't hate me for this one my fellow marylanders...but one summer all my dad and I could catch were those baby crabs. Of course they aren't worth eating steamed, but we did take them home anyways. My mom took half of the batch and marinated them in soysauce, ginger, and garlic and the other half was marinated in korean hot chile flakes, ginger, sugar, and garlic. The crabs are supposed to be eaten raw and were the perfect side to put the whole shell in your mouth, suck, and then spit back out. DELICIOUS.

we also went fishing a few times and usually caught rockfish and croaker. These fishes were just scaled and lightly panfried and salted- which is a traditional easy korean way to eat them. Its also good to smear the fish with some gochujang and fry them or eat them in a spicy fish stew with lots of mugwort

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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I am at best an indifferent and infrequent fisherwoman, but the few times I've done it successfully have been sweet, if more symbolic than substantial.

At one point I was living in Boston and working out at Digital in Maynard MA. Sometimes I'd get so bored with my daily commute that I'd skip the freeways and take the back routes, winding through towns like Concord (yep, that Concord, Walden Pond and all). I don't remember when I first noticed the occasional guy under an overpass casting into a creek, but it inspired me to pick up a cheap light rod of my own and go panfishing, something I hadn't done since my dad took me fishing when I was a kid.

I think all I ever caught on these adult (or second childhood?) expeditions were a few panfish, barely a mouthful of edible food each, but I'd go through the business of cleaning them anyway, because, well, that was part of the ritual, man, you had to use what you caught! I remember thinking, hmm, they taste nice enough, but hardly worth the trouble simply from a nutritional standpoint. At least they were so small that they didn't produce all that much mess.

But this exercise wasn't about putting food on the table. It was about staging a momentary escape from modern corporate America to stand on the bank of a stream, under a two-lane overpass, with the marshy grasses waving and the little critters all chirping and rustling around me, methodically casting and playing my little flashy spinner and neon-colored salmon eggs through the current, waiting to feel that tell-tale tug on the line, and wondering if Thoreau had once stood in this same place, doing this same action--no doubt with more success both in catching fish and philosophizing about it, but hey, it's the thought that counts.

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I was fishing last night actually. Off a pier with about 30 old Greek and Italian guys. I left just as they were starting get the evenings calamari catch.

The first fishing I ever did was for these guys. I remember being taken to a dam on my grandfathers farm and been given a chunk of mutton tied onto a length of my grandmothers knitting wool. This was dropped into the water and when the string went taunt you slowly pulled it, and hopefully the yabbie, up and into a bucket. I must have been four-ish, but I remember it very clearly. I know now that it isn't a very good method for catching yabbies, but it was a real highlight of my childhood.

gallery_1643_4514_261532.jpg

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or eat them in a spicy fish stew with lots of mugwort

That sounds delicious and healthy, too. It also sounds as if it were good for "something" medicinal (to heat or to cool). Do you know if it might be, SheenaGreena?

But this exercise wasn't about putting food on the table. It was about staging a momentary escape from modern corporate America to stand on the bank of a stream, under a two-lane overpass, with the marshy grasses waving and the little critters all chirping and rustling around me, methodically casting and playing my little flashy spinner and neon-colored salmon eggs through the current, waiting to feel that tell-tale tug on the line, and wondering if Thoreau had once stood in this same place, doing this same action--no doubt with more success both in catching fish and philosophizing about it, but hey, it's the thought that counts.

Yes. But along with the thought went the taste, too. :biggrin: Nice story, Ellen.

I was fishing last night actually. Off a pier with about 30 old Greek and Italian guys. I left just as they were starting get the evenings calamari catch.

gallery_1643_4514_261532.jpg

Lucky guy, you are. Is that fellow a "yabbie"? What does it stand for (if anything :wink: )? He looks as if he were about to tell a fish tale, too, while being quite sure you would listen with those claws extended in that way. :biggrin:

Gorgeous blog too, Adam.

Did you cook him?

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"Yabby/yabbie" is an Anglo- form of "yabij", which is their name in a Wemba-Wemba Australian aboriginal language.

While I am glad of the carrying forward of the language, I worry about how it has taken on an aspect of cuteness with the "ie" sound at the end. It begins to take on the aura of "bunny" vs. "rabbit" and goodness knows I have big problems with how that whole thing has affected my life. :sad:

Who knows. Next we might take on having pet lobsters here.

I only caught a lobster once. And ate him too, of course. Will have to try to tell that story a bit later. . . .

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  • 3 weeks later...

Bluefish Run. Now there is something fun.

Bluefish travel together, swimming around looking for little fish to eat. Sometimes they find little fish travelling around together, and then the fun begins. The big handsome bluefish attack the little fish, running them right into shore if they are close enough. The water churns and twists and bubbles with the fervor of the attack. And then, of course, any fisherman or fisherwoman nearby gets slightly maddened, too, as the urge rises within one's heart and soul, to pull in a big gorgeous bluefish.

One year when I was living on a boat in a boatyard (which had the gall to call itself a marina but which really was a boatyard) in Stamford, Connecticut, we had a bluefish run. The first shout was heard, from some guy working on his boat.

"Bluefish! Bluefish!" he cried, as he dropped the tool used to endlessly remove barnacles from the bottoms of boats. His voice echoed through the boatyard, topping off the noises of electric sanders that were being used to smooth decks, rounding off the sounds of radios playing and the laughter that went along with the cases of beer being downed by those who had put away their electric sanders for the day.

Within seconds, men came running from every direction. The men that worked in this boatyard were first-generation Portugese-American or second-generation Italian-American. They had no fear of having to be quiet and subdued. They ran to the water, ran onto the docks, ran onto the decks of boats, churning the air of the sunny day themselves with shouts, exclamations, directions, exhortations, waving arms, running legs. Joy was bubbling in an intense and completely enticing way, and the hunt was on.

Babbles of voices rose in Portugese and half-Italian mixed with English. The stoners that worked at the boatyard followed along, hitching up their jeans which were always falling down, lighting up a butt or a joint, tossing their hair out of their eyes as they stood to watch. Some blond crew-cut heads rose from the inside of some boats, smiling and bemused at the sudden madness that had seized the day, hands wrapped round gins-and-tonics, and they stood and watched as the scene unfolded.

Some of the guys had arrived with fishing poles in hands. Others were running in every direction to try to find them. "Got a pole? Got a pole?" they shouted. I gave them the two poles I had from the boat and then felt worried. How was I going to get my own bluefish?

There were not enough poles. Guys started jumping on to the decks of unwatched boats, running below decks to find any poles they could. One guy emerged from below-deck of a larger boat with four poles. He ran by me, handing me a pole. "Grab a piece of bread! Anything! Get that line in the water!" he rapidly tossed to me as he disappeared towards the end of the dock.

I don't remember what I grabbed for the hook, just as I can not remember the name of the small fish that were being attacked by the bluefish.

I cast the line into the churning water (what a feeling, always, the line heading out with grace into the air) and it landed. Plunk. And it didn't take long, for these fish were in a frenzy. Chop chop chop chop they were biting whatever was in their way in search of a bite of those fine little fish they were chasing down.

Jesus. The pole almost got pulled out of my hands the fish was so strong. I must have screamed, and I almost fell off the boat, for some guy came running to give me directions on how to bring in the fish.

I did bring it in, and it was a twelve-pound bluefish. Gorgeous.

A big fish to clean. Awesome, for someone who had only cleaned smaller fish. If I remember right (fish tales do tend to go awry for some reason) it was about three feet long.

I cleaned it, and cut it into steaks and gave lots of it away, and cooked it that night in the tiny oven that was in our Sparkman and Stevens 1939 wooden sailboat, basted with bacon and topped with onions and herbs. It was pretty good.

Almost good enough to take away the embarrassment of when the man who owned the fish pole I was using walked up to me after I caught the fish and took a good long stare at his pole - the one that had been whisked out of his boat by my friendly unknown pole-provider. I almost choked as he stared, and said "Someone handed it to me".

Mortifying.

But then again, this was the time of the bluefish run. A feeding frenzy. For all.

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My wife's family began a yearly tradition of vacationing high in the eastern Sierras near Yosemite when she was only 6. They added fishing to these trips after a few years. I had fished off and on since before I can even remember. Early in our marriage we booked a cabin at "the lake" and spent a few delightful days of fishing, eating and sleeping. We have gone almost every year since. How long have we been doing this? My older daughter was still in a stroller the first time we went. Now she's finished college, gotten established in a carrer and is headed for the altar. We book the cabin as soon as we can raise someone at the resort in January. Then in early summer (four weeks and counting as I write this post) we go and fish, eat and sleep. Understand that our idea of fishing is sitting at the lake edge with a line in the water just soaking up the beauty of the area. We like it better when we catch fish but fishing is the "excuse" we use for just sitting and relaxing. This year we have dwindled to just my father-in-law (he's a great guy), my sweet wife and myself.

We fish for trout. While at "the lake" we will have one dinner of fresh trout, rubbed with olive oil and garlic and then barbercued along with a good zinfindel. The rest of the catch comes home and gets brined and then smoked over fruit woods. No one EVER turns down the smoked trout.

I put the lake in quotes because California has many lakes but in our family "the lake" means one very special place.

Edited by Porthos (log)

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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