The most recent blogs of my fellow editors Jes Hathaway and Linc Bedrosian were about seafood. Jes had a market-driven slant, and Linc was reveling in the pleasures of pecan encrusted sockeye salmon with faro chanterelle risotto and seared sea scallops with a coconut-lemongrass sauce that he and Kelley, his new bride, were dining on in an inn in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
It took me back to the fishing days, and so I thought I’d add an at-sea angle, for I know what a certain cook would have done to those two seafood delicacies. He was old Norwegian stock and like several Norwegians I had fished with, preferred well-done meals. That meant there was one way, and one way only, to cook meat of any kind — gray. If it was beef, lamb, chicken or pork it had to be gray before he’d serve it. A hint of redness was the perfect reason to flop it back in the pan. Occasionally halibut was the meal, and though it would seem impossible to turn a white fish gray, he came close.
Before most meals as I approached the companionway leading to the galley, I uttered a little chant — “Gray is good. Good is gray.” — to steel myself for what was coming.
But when the workday is nearly 30 hours, sleep three to six and then back at it for nearly three weeks, even the cook’s gray culinary fare was something to look forward to — well sort of.
The cook also didn’t seem to look forward to the seven-day break at the end of each trip. His often-repeated sentiment, “The man belongs on the boat. The woman belongs at home,” perhaps explains that reluctance.
I’m just glad he didn’t serve the delicacy that Massachusetts’ Cape Ann fishermen dined on at about the time of the War of Independence. It was called “flour short-cake,” and you’ll find it in “Peter Gott, The Cape Ann Fisherman.” This is a novel written in 1856, and while the characters are romanticized, the descriptions of fishing life seem accurate.
The book’s author, J. Reynolds, describes the preparation of the flour short-cake: “The head was broken out of a flour barrel; the flour scooped out of the centre so as to make a basin-like cavity, sufficiently large for the cook’s purpose; he then poured into it a pint of pork fat, which he had fried out of slices of salt pork, a quantity of molasses and a little hot water, and mixed in the flour till it was of the proper consistence. It was then taken out in a mass, and baked in a Dutch oven over the fire.”
Reynolds goes on to say, “many a hearty breakfast of a Sunday morning do the fishermen make of it with their pot of boiled tea.”