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.