Fish, I mean. I’ve never had the experience of sucking anything into my lungs through a burning tube of dead plants or any other sort of cigarette, pipe, cigar, spliff, bong, etc, and I feel not the slightest sorrow over that as a loss. But smoky foods? Oh, yes, please! Smoked meats, smoked salts and spices, and especially, smoked fishes.
Smoked cod, like the tenderly delicious star of that long-ago fish-and-chips feast in an out-of-the-way pub in Winnipeg where the air was suffused with the aforementioned kinds of smoke to the point that had my companions and I not been quite hungry and quite at sea about where to find another eatery, we’d not likely have stopped. One had to brave a dank, ill-lit stairwell to the netherworld of an almost invisible below-stairs bar, be “sponsored” by a dear friend to become a member of the joint (the barman was happy to be best friends with all of us), order from the cook who was sitting at the bar eating his own lunch of fried rice or chow mein, and trust that one was actually welcome and about to be fed something good. Happily, all of this oddball expedition led to one of the most spectacularly delicious meals of fish and chips I’ve ever enjoyed, not least of all made special by the cod being smoked rather than merely fresh and perfect.
Kippers and Kedgeree would be hard to beat for a tasty breakfast or light supper, being smoked-fish-centric. Smoked tuna salad is a lovely dip or spread for hors-d’oeuvres and snacks. Fresh bagels are a dream with any good schmear, but possibly best of all with some bright, pure cream cheese and pristinely sweet and salty lox.
And of course, being a good native Seattleite and of Norsk lineage, I am fond of salmon in a vast variety of forms, not least of all the Norwegian version of that Jewish treasure, the cured salmon known as gravlax or any smoked salmon worthy of the name. Growing up with a good supply of Gramps‘s freshly caught fish on the table was not only a boon to the economy and health of the household, but a training ground for the love of that noble fish that only grew over the years and expanded to include the beauties of those cured and smoked varieties. It’s no surprise that I should so often fall back on the inclusion of one or more of these salmon delights when it’s time to make a good meal, whether for just my partner and me or for more sophisticated company.
This time I opted to let several different favorites crash into each other on the plate: double salmon (cured lox plus candied/smoked wild Alaska salmon) blended with a little bit of lemon cream, and firmly tender white wine-steamed vegetables (carrots, celery, and green beans), all scooped on top of a goodly heap of baked macaroni and cheese. They were well enough behaved with each other that I never doubted I’d find them friendly toward me, too, and sure enough, they were. Like the Winnipeg barman and me, this dish and I became fast friends—that is, both quickly and deeply attached. Until the serving dish was empty, anyway.