As I'm going through this little life journey here, I've been trying to take every opportunity I can to learn about my food. That's why I was stoked to finally go along on one of my father's regular fishing trips this winter!
My father- you know, Daddy- has been fishing in Texas with the same guide since 1982. He fishes all year round, many times a year, on different types boats, in all kinds of weather conditions and water depths, and even wading in a marsh for 8 hours at a time. This year he asked if I wanted to come along for a week, and I think he was expecting me to give the usual answer ("Why would I want to do that??). Let me remind you: I'm a city girl. I had never touched a live fish before. I had never been on a boat that wasn't a dinner cruise or a yacht with bottle service. So I said yes!
We spent four full days with our guide Danny, who has been guide fishing since he was a teenager and is so in touch with fish that he seems to be in direct communication with them. Danny would say, "We are going to find Drum fish in this spot for 25 minutes", and instantly we'd be catching Drum fish one after another for exactly 25 minutes. Then they'd suddenly stop biting, just as he predicted, and we'd move onto the next spot. Seriously.
Danny kept calling me a "city slicker" because I did things like wear legwarmers and designer sunglasses and matching outfits on the boat each day, but he stopped using that nickname once I started catching some serious fish... I caught the biggest fish of the week, a Drum which had to be thrown back because it was oversized!
At the end of each day, Danny taught me how to clean our fish and cut them into filets, wasting nothing. We threw the heads and bones back into the water, where huge groups of catfish were waiting to feed on them.
Each night, Danny's wife Betty May would cook whatever we had caught that day. And of course, I asked her for every recipe! This photo is from Betty May's kitchen where we fried up the day's catch, as well as some crabs and shrimp Danny had caught earlier in the week.
I packed some fish in ice and took them home to New York in a carry-on cooler. So far I've cooked them three ways: spiced & baked, chowderized, and battered & deep fried. The battered fish was insanely easy, and I made home-made tartar sauce using pickles from my garden.
But here's the sad part: I can't share the recipes with you, dear readers. They are Betty May's secret family recipes, and I was honored to be let in on the secret. Maybe some day I can convince her to publish a cook book? But however great the recipes were, they were made even greater by the fact that the fish was freshly caught with my own hands!
Just like eating my rabbits, catching and eating my own fish has given me a new appreciation for the fish I buy at Whole Foods. I can't believe it's not more expensive to buy fish at a store or restaurant... it was a lot of work for me to reel in those little dudes, they should be selling each fish filet for $20!