Since we live in Alaska, it should come as no surprise that we eat a lot of fish. At least once or twice a week we have salmon, halibut or some other sort of seafood. I really enjoy it – but this wasn’t always the case.
I grew up in the Oregon desert and the only type of seafood we ate was something along the lines of Van de Camps fish sticks or Schwanns popcorn shrimp. Other than the occasional sushi roll, fish wasn’t my jam. It was The Biologist (surprise!) who introduced me to the culinary delights of seafood and how to cook it.
Let me explain.
I love cooking. I love making things. I love the process of creating a meal, planning, chopping, those crazy aromas … and of course, the end results. My Grandma always said that she loved doing dishes because she could just “think”. I feel that way when I am cooking. Any space where you can create something – even if it’s a mess – is a good thing. I also really love eating with my family and friends. We cook, we laugh, we talk, we EAT! Cooking and waltzing around my kitchen is where feel most at home. It’s my thing.
Then one day, a long time ago, it suddenly wasn’t.
I had a lot of personal stuff happen and there was a period of about six months where I couldn’t cook. I just couldn’t. It is hard to explain, but life kind of stopped and went into fast forward at the same time. I think during that time the only thing I made was frozen pizza and cereal. My happy kitchen became this obsolete dead space. One day in the middle of that mess, I went to make something and instead I sat on my kitchen floor and just cried. It is a strange thing to fall into that kind of rut.
Then, slowly, I got it together. I started by hesitantly toasting bagels. I tried. I made coffee. I looked at the trees through the window. I read my favorite cookbook and remembered how happy creating some of those recipes made me. My mojo started seeping back. My roommate, my cat, and my friends helped. I slowly crept back into my kitchen to work instead of cry.
Awhile after my time of being Debbie Downer, I met this dude who was a Biologist.
One night we (or he) made dinner. The Biologist made salmon fillets with butter, garlic, parsley and lemon. I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing – I mean, fish? I didn’t even know if I liked fish. The risk paid off and it was THE BEST salmon I have ever had. Maybe it was because we ate it outside with a side of rice pilaf and glasses of wine on one of those sunny, dusty south-central Oregon summer evenings that makes anyone happy. And the salmon? Woah.
I was intrigued. That piqued my interest about fish, what to do with it, how to cook it, etc. For spending so much theoretical time in the kitchen, I knew nothing about how to cook a fish, prepare crab or what seasonings to use. I was impressed with the Biologist’s culinary skills, but it was sort of like a challenge for me to go back to making dinner. We made supper the next week, and the week after, and then the week after that…and well, we still do. Somewhere in there I remembered how much I loved cooking again.
Fast forward to Alaska, where we ended up with a freezer full of halibut and salmon. I think we have cooked it a million different ways. There have been some successes and some major fails. Overall it has been a good learning experience and I feel waaaaayyy more confident about dealing with seafood than I did when we (or he) made salmon that first time.
During my fish education I have learned many things. Knowing how to judge the freshness of the fish, learning how not to overcook it and discovering that cod and halibut don’t taste the same even if they look alike…so many things to discover! I learned to take risks like…halibut enchiladas? Yum.
So, lets keep learning, and trying. Lets remember that the most important thing that worst case cooking scenario means you just have to order pizza (it happens). Also – If you ever find yourself in a rut, crying on the kitchen floor. It’s okay. Cry it out. And then get up. Keep going. One day you will realize that salmon doesn’t taste like Van de Camps fish sticks like you thought and that things like cooking really do make life a lot lot better.