Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In the (salmon) pink

I remember to the day(s) when salmon became a staple of our family diet.  It was July of 1980, and we visited my sister-in-law in Alaska.  One day she bought salmon for dinner, and showed me how to cook it (a film of mayonnaise over the top so it wouldn't dry out under the broiler).  This was a new concept to me -- I'd never seen salmon in our grocery stores, and had eaten it only in restaurants.

The salmon was wonderful, of course, fabulously fresh, only a few miles from its fishing grounds.  It was expensive but worth it.  We had it a couple of times during our visit.

When we came home to the landlocked Midwest, we stopped at the grocery on our way from the airport and to my amazement found gorgeous salmon at the fish counter -- at half the price we'd paid in Anchorage!  

Seems that the fishing season had gotten delayed by some ugly disagreement between fishermen and government, and now there was such a backlog of fish in the big salmon ports that airplanes were taking off every three minutes, 24/7.  You could barely give away the fish, hence our bonanza at Kroger; apparently even stores that had never carried it before couldn't refuse.  And it must have been popular, because it's been there ever since.

We bought and ate lots of salmon for the rest of that summer, and forevermore.  I've learned to prepare salmon in many different ways -- broiled, pan-sauteed, baked -- and with many different flavor accents.  But in recent years I've become far more picky about the variety and provenance of my salmon.

We try not to buy farm-raised salmon; it tastes bland and insipid, and we worry about the potential for environmental degradation from the farm pens, not to mention the potential for disease in the closely crammed fish population.  But this year we've been blessed with what seems to be a bumper crop of wild-caught sockeye, more delicious than we remember from previous years.  

I don't know where they come from -- probably Alaska -- or how long we'll enjoy this season's catch.  But we're loving it while it lasts.

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