Posted by: ktzefr | February 26, 2010

Flying Kites and Frying Fish…

(See new post, “Voices from the Arab World,” under On Books and Writing)

“After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” ~ Oscar Wilde

It’s kite-ripping weather!  This morning the winds are roaring around the eaves of the house at 35+ mph.  Birds huddle in the dense foliage of the snowball bush to keep from being flung about against their will…sort of like I felt a few years ago.  A friend and I were flying back from Mexico in a prop plane and weren’t able to land and connect in Dallas because of tornadoes in the area.  After being batted about and tossed through the air like a loose piece of metal for what seemed like hours, we landed temporarily at an air force base to wait out the weather.   So, I know what those birds feel like flying at the mercy of the wind.  Not fun.

A Kentucky meadow in summer time.

In To Come and Go Like Magic an eccentric uncle spends his March days flying kites in a meadow and “contemplating.”  This looks like a fun life to a kid who has to spend her days at school.  On a day like today, however, a kite would probably be shredded, especially those of the homemade variety we used to make in Kentucky.  We gathered newspaper, twine, and the straightest sticks we could find.  Then we glued and tied and, at least on one occasion I remember painting the kite with messy finger paint that didn’t dry, and took them to the field to fly.  We never had much luck, as I recall.  The sticks were not centered correctly; they were crossed evenly like an “X” when they should have resembled a cross; too much glue or twine made it too heavy to fly.  Or it needed a tail.  We attached strings of colorful quilt pieces.  My final appraisal:  it didn’t fly because it wasn’t a “real” kite.

So, no kite flying for me, but I am contemplating…dinner.  Fish, maybe.  Salmon, sea bass, trout?  Wondering what clear-eyed (that’s how to determine freshness) specials the fishmonger will offer.  Every now and then he’ll get a batch of catfish and I think about my mom frying mud cats just pulled from the Cumberland River in Kentucky.  There’s nothing quite like yanking a fish out of the water and popping it into the frying pan.  (The same goes for corn.  No corn in the world tastes as good as the ears you pick from the stalk and drop right into the boiling water.)

Last summer…

Michael and his Kentucky bass!

No, we didn’t eat this one…set him free.

I often buy fresh salmon and love every variety — the wild and the tame and the stuff that’s been shipped from icy waters in places I have never been and never plan to go.  It’s all good.  We never had fresh salmon when I was growing up, but my mom made salmon cakes from the canned variety at the store.  Canned salmon, chopped onion, corn meal, flour, salt and pepper, a touch of mustard.  She mixed it all up, made burgers, and fried them in grease.  Not the specialty oils, from olive to safflower to canola etc. that I use nowadays to cook…but grease.  Lard.  Shortening.   You can make anything go from tasting good to tasting great just by frying it in lard.  I don’t do it, but I can’t deny that it tastes really good!

For many years I have loved cooking and have collected a long shelf of cookbooks — French, Italian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Puerto Rican, Spanish, South American…cookbooks by famous chefs, past and present — James Beard, Julie Sahni, Marcella Hazan, Paul Bocuse, Tony Bourdain, Jose Andres, et al.  I have pasta cookbooks, ones that have only garlic or chocolate or barbecue recipes…all the Silver Palate books, and even one called Spies, Black Ties, and Mango Pies.

An excellent fish cookbook is titled One fish, two fish, crawfish, bluefish: The Smithsonian Sustainable Seafood Cookbook. By Carole C. Baldwin and Julie H. Mounts, this collection published by the Smithsonian Institution is a gem with 150 great recipes from America’s Top Chefs.

Hmmm…hunger has kicked in, so I’m going to head out into the wind to see what looks good on ice today.  Have a great weekend!

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