Salmon is good for you. Everyone says that. Nutritionists, doctors, cooking show hosts, people in California – everyone is salmon’s best friend. In a way, salmon has become like that personality on the internet who is always having an article written about them, where they went on vacation (during the pandemic), what new mansion they have purchased, and what a great and hilarious job they have done in trying to raise their own children, instead of having their nannies do it.
But salmon is so delicious, right? It’s high in Omega -3, which is supposedly good for you, it’s high in protein (but so is a nice ribeye!), and packed with everything else, so that if all you had in this world, walking through the Sahara Desert, would be a hunk of salmon, then by the time you got to the other side, you would be so strong and fit that you’d hardly need air to breathe!
Right. Now, I like to eat fish – I love walleye, and cod and all sorts of shellfish. However, when I was little, the only salmon I ever saw came out of an oblong can, that Mom would open, and then mix the contents with a number of different items, like bread crumbs and onions and eggs – what she called “salmon croquettes.” The word croquette is actually defined as a bunch of finely minced meat or fish, rolled into a ball and fried.
Now, Mom was a great cook. Long before there was any fast food, or ordering in, or even taking the family to dinner at a restaurant for pizza or whatever, in the 60s, our very lives depended on Mom cooking for the house full of nine or ten people. Every day. We NEVER went out to eat. Ok, there were those rare times, when we ended up in Columbia, South Carolina, and it was after 6pm, and it was a whole 32 miles back home, and then it would take time to cook supper, that Dad would capitulate and we would actually stop at the McDonald’s on the edge of town, where we all got one (1) hamburger, for the cost of probably 15 cents. Of course, Lisa had to get a hot dog, which McDonald’s served at that time. That meant we all ate out for $1.35. NO drinks, no fries. Burger. Live with it. Buy that was rare – more often, we would just have to suffer for the entire half hour home, and then Mom would whip up something fast for us to eat, as we slowly dragged ourselves to the table, famished and weak from hunger.
But I digress. Mom was a great cook, but like any great cook, not every meal hit out of the ball park. She had a tendency, as did most folks in the 60s, to stay away from anything “rare” or “not well done.” Partly it was to make sure we never got intestinal diseases, since pork and chicken – and fish – were always dangerous and suspect (which might have been true, actually). So, when it came to preparing to preparing meal that were not roast beef, or hamburgers, or hot dogs, or mac and cheese, or such, common sense whispered that it was probably better to cook something a little longer.
Unfortunately, that was the case with salmon croquettes. I actually think the salmon coming out of the can was already cooked, like tuna fish, but when it was mixed with bread and onions and eggs, it had to fry for a while. A long while. The result was an item that at one time I’m sure was healthy and all, but all I could taste was a dried up, devoid of all moisture, ball of something I didn’t care for. We ate it, but the only thing worse was that it was often served with “mixed vegetables” out of a can, which included the scourge of the earth, lima beans. Those were not nights that today I can cherish, since when asked what I would want for my birthday meal, I would respond with “cooked meat.” That meant “steak.” It still does.
Flash forward a good 55 years, and now I am the head chef for Chez Cross ristorante. I do have a deep respect for Mom and her willingness to try to cook meals that satisfied everyone, since the four of us can barely find enough kinds of food for a weekday menu. So, I ventured out. I took us into the land of fish, which is always kind of iffy. I decided we would enjoy a nice meal of garlic and lemon baked salmon, with accompanying garlic and butter tiny potatoes. Ooh – elegant.
After a couple of days where excuses were tossed out about why we couldn’t have salmon that night, I finally forged on, and took yesterday to prepare our lovely evening’s repast. I had a recipe – one that had comments on it like “Best ever! The family couldn’t eat enough! What a delicious meal!” You can’t go wrong there, right?
I won’t go into the particular details, but it baked for the allotted time, and so I checked it, to make sure it was nice and pink, not red and jello-ey. It was red and jello-ey, so back in the oven for a couple more minutes. Nope – not yet. I gave it a few more minutes, and then a few more, at this point basically doubling the time the recipe said it would take to make such a delicious meal. Finally, it looked pretty done, so we called everyone upstair, said a prayer, and dished up.
It was pretty quiet in the room as the fish went on the plate. It looked good, though – kind of like a picture you would take for a recipe book. Everyone vanished to their places of eating, and Cheri and I sat down at the dining room table.
I took a bite and suddenly the croquettes of old flashed into my mind. It was cooked, but it was dry – almost as bad as when you have a dry chicken breast. Now, I’m not an old man, but I have decided I am too old to eat icky tasting food. Not only was the salmon dry, but it was also incredibly bitter – and dry. I set the fork down, and decided I was done with this meal.
Out of the four of us, three had giant thumbs down. Aaron, however, like the salmon – but then again, he’s like the kid on the cereal ad who “likes everything.” We gifted him the remaining two pounds of salmon, and wished him well.
Tonight we are having hot dogs.
Fortunately, it wasn’t a last meal. Everyone woke up this morning, with no one worse for the wear. And I’m sure there are other wonderful ways to cook salmon, but I do think it’s a long shot anyway. I did intend for a good meal – what happened wasn’t so much an accident as a mistake. We all have better days than others, better experiences than others, and better outcomes than others. The key, I believe, is to decide that the next experience will be better, and if indeed there was something to be learned from a bad thing, to learn it and move on. We are not on this earth to dwell on the bad, sad, tragic parts of life. New every morning is God’s faithfulness to us, and every day is an opportunity for you and me to shine in this life.
So, if you like salmon, all the more power to you! I do have a sirloin in the freezer, and I’m looking forward to that coming up on the menu rotation…
Word for day: habromania. Pronounced hab-row-MAIN-ia. It’s a bittersweet word, which comes from the Greek. Of course, you know the last part, mania, which is basically insanity. A maniac has lost touch with reality. However, the first part, habros, means both “delicate” and “graceful.” When we then think of someone who lives in a “graceful insanity,” what it means is someone who lives as insane, but with a cheerful delusion. They are happy all the time, even though they are broken from reality. I would think that would be the best kind of craziness to have, if you had to choose. To be trapped in a cycle of happy things… I don’t know hardly any habromaniacs.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.