Wash-Up Supper

In light of our current theme, Fish and Seafood, I couldn’t resist revisiting Susan Musgrave’s delightful cookbook, A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World. For anyone looking to be transported, this cookbook is a must-have. The recipes are user-friendly and moan-worthy. Many are soon-to-be classics in my own modest culinary repertoire. I recommend “Beets Margaret Atwood” if you’re on the lookout for literary fare. In addition to her baking and foraging know-how, Musgrave’s spirited tales of kitchen-mishaps will have you laughing aloud.

Earlier this fall when Alexia suggested the theme “Fish and Seafood,” she added the encouraging comment, “Think outside the box” (particularly when small apartments don’t take kindly to fishy odours). I immediately thought of Musgrave and her wash-up menu for seaside scavengers.

What is wash-up, you ask? (Especially if you’re from the landlocked prairies.) Musgrave explains: “Wash-up differs from beachcombing in that wash-up is full of tasty things to eat…. Whether or not we have wash-up depends on the wind.” (224) The winter season is often a good time for wash-up when strong waves deposit clams, barnacles, or squid on the beach. These items become easy-pickings for anyone ready to scour the seashore in order to furnish their tables and freezers. But wash-up isn’t just about seafood (traditionally defined). Oceans are busy places. Large vessels and fishing boats occasionally lose their cargo, or other items accidently fall overboard. Musgrave relates stories of bags of Doritos, frozen chicken wings, citrus fruit, Russian beer, and vegetables washing ashore.

So for this “seafood” post (broadly defined), I went scavenging at the nearest grocery store. The wash-up on Vancouver’s beaches isn’t all that appetizing. After finding a few items on special, I procured the necessary ingredients for an urban-dweller’s land version of a wash-up meal.

For the appetizer, Doritos chips and Okanagan wine. For the main course, Musgrave’s recipe for “Shipwrecked Chicken Wings” accompanied by “Citrus Salad with Mint” (sections of oranges and grapefruit tossed with a splash of maple syrup and garnished with mint).

Authentic wash-up chicken wings arrive with their distinct flavouring already in place, so if you would like to replicate the ocean’s seasoning, Musgrave recommends creating a brine (water, salt, white vinegar, and red pepper flakes). The wings need to “bathe” for 3 hours or longer in the fridge.

Musgrave advises using kosher salt (not the more expensive Maldon Flaked Sea Salt) whenever a recipe involves dissolving the salt in liquid. A Maldon Salt convert, Musgrave even carries a small packet in her purse, so it’s always close at hand. Her praise for these fine flakes is so convincing that my spice cupboard now boasts its own box. However, I missed her earlier tip about using kosher salt (for dissolving), so when it came time to create the brine for the wings, in went 3 tablespoons of those precious Maldon flakes. But ooooooh, those wings were salty perfection.

Text and Photo Credits: Shelley Boyd

Musgrave, Susan. A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World. Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 2015.

Steamed Whole Fish / Jing Yu

Janice Wong’s Chow: From China to Canada: Memories of Food + Family is both utilitarian (you can cook from it) and “chatty” to quote Nora Ephron’s Heartburn via Susan Leonardi of the oft cited PMLA article “Recipes for Reading”. Chow offers recipes for Dungeness Crab with Dow See or Black Bean Sauce and Chinese Style Barbequed Spareribs, punctuated by Wong’s stories of family life: migration, settlement, love, food. Chow has the look of a scrapbook with its photographs, hand written recipes, and photocopied menus.

Since we have devoted ourselves to the task of bringing you “fish food” over the next few months, I have selected Wong’s recipe for Steamed Whole Fish.

I was looking forward to the task of photographing a whole fish, as per Wong’s instructions.

“Whole fish: preferably white fish such as rock cod, pickerel, halibut or snapper”

Schooled (and thankfully not scolded) by my local fishmonger on the finer points of fish size and price per kilo, I elected to try my hand at rock cod . . . filleted.

If you do not have a bamboo steaming rack, Wong provides ample instruction on how to improvise one.

Marinate your fillets for two hours with the following:

marinade

That is to say . . .

2 teaspoons salt

salt

1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil

sesame oil

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine or cooking sherry

rice wine or cooking sherry

4 large slices ginger root, peeled and cut into matchstick slivers

ginger

2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus ½ teaspoon sesame oil for topping fish

gently steam until cooked through

fish

and then garnish with 3 green onions, finely diced, for sprinkling on top of fish and 2-3 cha gwa (preserved tea melons), finely sliced. You’ll note the omitted tea melons in this first attempt.

fish, steamed

fish, steamed II

 

Text and photographs by Alexia Moyer

Leonardi, Susan J. “Recipes for Reading: Summer Pasta, Lobster À La Riseholme, and Key Lime Pie ” Modern Language Association 104.3 (May) (1989): 340-47. Print.

Wong, Janice. Chow: From China to Canada: Memories of Food + Family. Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 2005. Print.