Kennedy’s gone – and I cooked fish!
Most of my time today has been spent in reminiscence of Ted Kennedy, but today has been special in another way for me because, for the first time since childhood (with 1 exception), I cooked fish! For why cooking fish is so exceptional for me, along with my own very small — or as Rachel would say “Teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy” — connection to the Kennedys…
Many other people have said things today honoring Senator Kennedy far more profoundly than I could ever hope to approach. So I’m not going to try. Suffice it to say that I share a deep sense of loss with many in the nation – nay – across the world today. I do, however, want to recall a few brief anecdotes about the intersection of my life with the Kennedys – and they all center around John Jr.
John John was a college classmate of mine. We both are Brown, class of ’83. That’s not to say that he was a friend, or even an acquaintance. I sincerely doubt he even knew my name.
My first intersection with John John was when my Mom discovered that we were going to be at Brown at the same time. From that point on, it was difficult to stop Mom from quizzing me about him – especially after I arrived at Brown. She, as many in her generation were, was (and still is) enthralled by fond reminiscence of Camelot – and tried to relive it through me. Alas, I was a great, but not total, disappointment in that regard.
John John was a frat boy. A party animal. In the social sphere at Brown, I was but one of far too many mortals that were (nearly) beneath John John’s notice. Our lives simply didn’t intersect. Except for 2 brief occasions when I was able to bask in his reflected glory twice. Actually, I didn’t bask in his glory, rather, his glory reflected off me into my mother’s eyes.
The first was during orientation week freshman year – which would place it the first full week following Labor day in 1979. I was in line outside for something – I don’t remember what – when Jackie O got in line behind me to hold a place for John John. I had my 15 seconds of fame – actually more like 1 second – when I was visible clearly on a national TV newscast. They were, of course, covering Jackie, not me. Mom didn’t stop talking about it for months!
The second was during either my freshman or sophomore year. I don’t recall when, but I do remember where: The stairwell of the huge dorm wherein I lived both years. I was running up, late for something but needing to grab something from my room. John John was running down, apparently in an equal hurry. We collided. We fell. Books and papers went flying. We both got up, helped each other gather our things, and went our separate ways. Our conversation went something like:
You okay? Yeah, how about you? Oh, I’m ok. Thanks. See ya. See ya.
Mom, of course, went ballistic when I told her this story. Apparently, I missed my chance to elevate myself above the rest of my peers by saying something witty enough that John John and I became Best Friends Forever.
On to why my cooking fish makes this day memorable on a far more personal level than my tenuous connection to the Kennedys.
Those of you who have ever dined with me know that I don’t cook fish. Nor do I seek fish. Show me a restaurant menu and I’ll invariably choose anything on the menu that isn’t fish (shellfish excepted.) I’ve always been a meat and potato person, trending more towards meat and a starch in recent years. Until the past few months. Especially the last few weeks. Now fruits and vegetables are becoming far more prominent in my diet.
Fish, however, remained something I assiduously avoided. Like chocolate, fish was something I ate and truly enjoyed if it was set in front of me with no choice, yet I’ve never sought fish. Until today. Actually, until a few days ago when I realized I was tiring of chicken, beef and occasional pork for my protein. Nearly coincident with that realization, I watched a Food Network show that caused me to salivate over fish in a way I never had before:
Saturday, August 22, 2009 at 0900 hours. I’m still in bed. I’m watching Cooking for Real with Sunny Anderson. I’d tuned it in because Comcast listed it as including a recipe for “Wild Grains-n-Thangs” and I’ve recently wanted to expand the non-meat options in my cooking repertoire. Of course, these shows present more than 1 recipe, and they are intertwined as the host cooks the meal.
Here’s where it happened: one of the other recipes was for “Baked Salmon with Blackberry Ginger Glaze“. And it reached out and grabbed me! It had most of the features I look for in recipes, such as:
- Quick prep. I don’t mind short bits of prep with long, unattended cooking, or waiting for bread to rise or dough to chill, but when I’m cooking for just myself, doing an <expletive deleted> amount of prep isn’t my thing.
- Ingredients locally available, at the very least from a sustainable source, but preferably organic.
- Many ingredients already in my pantry – although I won’t let the lack of a spice turn me off as I don’t mind trying a new spice.
- I can imagine taking pleasure in eating the leftovers.
- Can the recipe be adapted to only 2 servings so that I can try it as leftovers, then not have to either:
- Discard it. ..or..
- force myself to eat it if I don’t like it?
But more than any of the above factors – it made me salivate! My mind kicked into high gear, thoughts flew around…but I’ve got so much leftovers already…I can’t make anything new until I eat through some of them…but blackberry ginger glaze sounds scrumptious…can I take pleasure in the leftovers?…are blackberries available locally? I started planning menus in my head. Here’s what I’ll eat the rest of today, and tomorrow I need to cook the sirloin tips with pasta that I’ve been planning before the meat goes bad, and Monday — and Tuesday! Wow! I had more leftovers than even I imagined. So my plan was set. Wednesday, I would cook fish!
And so I did. And it was good. Not terrific, not Tony the Tiger Great!, just good. Good enough that I look forward to the 2nd serving for lunch tomorrow. Good enough that I’m going to start including fish recipes in the list of recipes I pay attention to when watching food shows.
A sea change? Certainly not for the world – especially compared to the Senator’s passing, but definitely one for me. Beginning today, I will no longer be simply an acceptor of fish, I’ll be a seeker of fish!