Many of my top food memories are fish and seafood related. The heavy scent of boiling lobster still brings me to the summer afternoon when my mom spent hours in the kitchen cooking up special ordered lobsters for my sisters and I so that we could experience her favorite food. Sadly, all but one of us shunned the banquet, although I did finish my bowl of melted butter. My mom and one sister sat at the table for hours, greedy for every succulent chew.
Later when I matured enough to hear the call of the crustacean there were meals out with my grandpa (who always ordered popcorn shrimp) and my dad (who always had the walleye), and I was encouraged to order the lobster regardless of cost.
Spring breaks in Florida taught me that the smell of lemon and shrimp always trumps sun lotion and surf. During one vacation I joyfully greeted an expensive All You Can Eat Seafood Buffet which my college boyfriend's father didn't think I could handle. He was pleased when I ate his money's worth of crab and calamari.
There are herring and gravlax and lutfisk on holidays menus, kräftor in August, Door County fish boils, my mom's asymmetrical oblong crunchy salmon croquettes, and tiny taro root tacos folded around bites of tuna tartar for the first course of a meal that changed my life. More recently it was the lemon and garlic scent code perfume of my first bite of brandade.
With the bliss that fish brings us, I find it ironic that we are encouraged to eat it during Lent. Such a despicable sacrifice! In this week's Called to the Table I reflect on Fish Fry phenomenons and offer up a recipe for brandade.