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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's really not bad

Eggs gathered at twilight

Risa has been on the reservoir, and she's feeling pleased with herself about it. Beloved knows this because Risa's doing fish 'n chips for breakfast, and the last of the freezer-burned trout was dutifully eaten (about half by Risa and Beloved, and half by the cat) a week ago.

"You must have caught some trout."

"Well, no, these are whitefish."

"Have I had whitefish before? What are they?"

"They look like trout but have a deeper fork in the tail, are a bit more -- slippery. More bones; they take a little more concentration to deal with. And they don't cook up pink."

"Will I like them?" Beloved sits down gingerly, as though her chair might bite her.

"Not everyone does. A lot of the fishermen just cuss when they catch one and throw it in the bushes. But they're nowhere near as bad as pikeminnows."

"So, I'll like them?"

"Well, you've had them before, and said they were okay, so I thought I would chance it." Risa turns each of the three small fish, and stirs the red potatoes a bit, and, using the edge of her sleeve on the hot handle, lifts the frying pan from the wood stove over onto a potholder on the table.

Beloved tips a fish onto her plate, splits the side with her fork, peels a section down from the bones, and samples a bite.

"Ok, these are not bad. Fresh, anyway."

Risa had spotted a "blue hole" in the grey weather and run out to the water with her little boat, in shirt-sleeve warmth that has been teasing blossoms out of the nectarines and quinces. She paddled from the boat basin across to where the river once ran, over half a mile of still water. There, where the lake is deep, the trout sleep, and she'd hoped to find one or more up and doing, but no one was alert but the whitefish, as usual in February. So she caught three of these and kept them.

All along the way she passed thousands of drowned insects, not mayflies or caddis flies but land bugs -- flies of all kinds and many, many bees, mostly mason bees. There were even mosquitoes, mosquito hawks, and crane flies, reminding her of lakes she had paddled in August in Georgia, four decades and more gone.

She finds it interesting that in the U.S. East, where they have had a string of massive snowstorms (which is a proof of higher precipitation, just like last summer, and not of any oncoming ice age), not only the far right but all the media have been incessantly banging the there-is-no-global-warming drum while glaciers continue to melt, oceans rise, the western states are sweltering and their trees and summer insects are blooming, and in the other half of the world, killer heat waves are rolling though Australia, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa.

But she reflects that political parties and news organizations are made up of people who are mostly no smarter or braver than she is. And she remembers what it was like to have a job in which the things she saw were not things she could really say, as she needed the job in order to make ends meet. So she can't really blame them. And she's stopped trying to speak even to friends or family about this stuff. Nobody really likes preachy anyhow.

She'll blog, universe willing and the creek don't rise, for a few more years, but she'll stick to the bitty bits. How she cooks and eats and does house maintenance on the cheap, how she puts fruit trees and poultry together and wraps them round the garden, how she puts away a quart of applesauce for a rainy day. But she will pretty much emphasize that these activities may be enjoyed for themselves.

"Dooming and glooming, who, me?" she asks with round-eyed innocence. "Here, have some more whitefish. It's really not bad."

Tomorrow, maybe eggs and spinach.

:::

Small whitefish with chips

Put a little olive oil and butter in your iron skillet (if your diet includes any meats, you will find that a bit of bacon grease or such will benefit the flavor of whitefish), let the skillet get hot, and throw in some sliced and pre-steamed small potatoes, with a small handful of dehydrated, crumbled vegetable leaves scattered over them (dried basil or Italian spice will do). Cover, but remember to turn now and again.

Take your cleaned whitefish and drop them in a small paper bag in which there is about a quarter cup of wheat flour, corn meal, rye flour, salt and pepper in the proportions you like best. Shake the sack. Turn out the fish into the skillet when the potatoes are done. Fry fish on one side for two minutes, flip them over, two minutes more. Browned? Serve.

The potatoes, especially if home grown and cooked in their skins, will make outstanding leftovers. The whitefish, in our opinion, will not. Just give any leftover fish to the compost, the cat, etc.

You may roll up the sack and freeze it to use again for the next fish dinner, or if it has begun to look a little sad, use it as fire starter for the wood stove.



It does not so much matter what happens. It is what one does when it happens that counts. -- Laura Ingalls Wilder in The Missouri Ruralist

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