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When I was in high school and college, Dad engineered annual summer vacations for the family to Prince Edward Island in the Canadian Maritimes. I wasn’t really smart enough at the time to recognize the value of these, but as I’ve aged, they’ve assumed pride of place as one of those touchstone experiences and an enduring memory that has made my life so special (moms and dads, please take note).
We’d spend all of May excitedly preparing, and come the day after school let out (usually around June 5 or so), we’d hook up the trailer to the old Buick, haul it up to PEI’s North Shore, and plunk ourselves down in our favorite campground until the end of August. We’d leave just enough time, when we needed to go home, to get home the day before school started up again (usually, at that time in history, the day after Labor Day), at which point we’d, very reluctantly, pull up stakes and head back to Western Pennsylvania.
Halcyon days. Early morning (like 4 a.m.) lobster trapping. Cod and mackerel fishing. Clam digging. Boat painting. Learning about lives and lifestyles other than my own. History lessons. Real (as opposed to manufactured) diversity training with a family very different from us, but which we came to love as our own.
And, of course, beautiful beaches. Don’t get your hopes up. Gravity, gray hair, and avoirdupois have taken their inevitable toll. And yet, the corners of my mouth still turn up (my mother’s infallible judgment on the sweetness of a woman’s disposition).
Part of our magical experience was learning about new recipes and new ways to cook our favorite foods. And that’s how we came to enjoy the beach party with 34 lobsters straight out of the ocean, cooked in seawater, and served warm. And the bags (and bags, and bags) of PEI mussels, dug and harvested before they became “farmed” material. Oh, God. If I had a dollar for every pound of mussels or steamer clams I’ve dug in my life, I’d be a millionaire. And some of my almost indigent friends at the time would be about as rich thanks to our mutual efforts.
One of my favorite recipes, and one which I try to make around New Year every year is salt cod cakes. I don’t always manage it, because sometimes it gets subsumed under other traditions such as kielbasa, sauerkraut, and pierogies, but this year, I have no-one to please but myself, so salt cod cakes it is!
A treasured recipe from the patriarch of a fishing family we adored, the gentleman who gave me a copy of the King James Bible, asserting that it was the only one worth perusing, as it was the only one that contained the “actual words Christ spoke!” (I believe that, so rarely bother with any other on my own account.)
Happy New Year, Ricochetti. Please share your traditional recipes for this day.