Salmon on the Rez, part two

I’m still wandering, at least mentally, through Neah Bay, Washington, on the Makah Indian reservation. And also wondering why I didn’t buy more of the smoked salmon we bought during our visit and just finished up at lunch today.

Neah Bay is a small, very isolated town on the far Northwestern corner of Washington State. There is only one road that leads to it, and it’s an incredibly scenic but tortuous road that hugs the coastline for mile after mile of tight turns and drop dead scenery. Perhaps all too literally, as it would be way too easy to be distracted by the views, swerve off the highway and plunge into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

We camped a few miles outside of Neah Bay, at Hobuck Beach Resort. Very nice spot as we could look out onto the Pacific Ocean from our tent.

Even though we were camping, we indulged ourselves by driving back into town for food. Driving down the main street we saw a crudely painted sign saying “smoked salmon” with an arrow pointing down a side street and thought we’d look further. Following the arrow led us to what could best be described as a shack. A smoke shack.

Why, it’s the “Take Home FIsh Co”! The name kind of reminds me of something from a children’s story book by Richard Scarrey. I’m not sure why. I almost expected to find Huckle Cat inside.

After parking, we walked inside a dark room that had a chest cooler in one corner, a counter top in the middle, and on the other side of the room a large 55 gallon metal drum with a fire glowing beneath. The man behind the counter didn’t say anything, but slowly reached over for a packet, slid out a piece of smoked salmon, and cut off a generous piece for each of us to try. Mmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmmmmmm!!!!

I asked “how much?” (which seems like all I know to say on this reservation) and he said $15 a pound. And then he did talk a little more, saying that there wasn’t any hot salmon available, as the first batch in the smoker wasn’t done yet, but there were vacuum sealed containers ready. I poked around the cooler and picked out a package, paid for it, stared a little longer at the room, then left.

We returned to our campsite and feasted on crackers with cream cheese and smoked salmon. That day, and the next, and the following. Truly, the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had.

The culture editor for the New York TImes (note: I really really want this job…….) wrote this place up a few years ago, and posted this video. I enjoyed watching it when we got home. The companion piece was also interesting. This paragraph in particular is worth reading:

In Neah Bay, the smell of the sea gave way to the scent of burning wood, of salmon sizzling above it, to the perfume of alchemy. At its source we found a Makah named Kimm C. Brown, who runs the ramshackle Take Home Fish Company, a salmon barbecue shack that produces food more than worthy of the journey: delicious, fat king salmon, smoked hot in a drum over wet alder. The fish is sprinkled with herbs, then suspended over the smoke for 20 minutes or more. What herbs in particular? “It’s a special mixture passed down from the forefathers,” Mr. Brown said, standing over a platter of his fish, a glossy cat beneath him on the floor rooting at a discarded carcass. He held out a jar of the stuff: Lawry’s Garlic Salt, coarse ground with parsley. “I buy it by the case,” he added, laughing.

Hard place to get to, but highly rewarding. Next time I’ll know to stock up better.

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Salmon on the Rez, part one

We just returned from a trip to the Northern Olympic Peninsula. I love National Parks, and Olympic National Park is one of my favorites. High mountains, wild beaches, rain forests. We decided to concentrate on the beach part this trip, as Mount Rainier is near enough to where we live for weekend visits to mountains and rain forests.

Our trip started with a drive to Neah Bay, Washington. It was misting out when we got there, so we decided to spend some time at the Makah museum. Neah Bay is home to an Indian tribe called the Makahs, and the museum was very interesting. Even more interesting was the nearby hand lettered sign we spotted that said “traditional salmon bake”. As we approached, we saw a fire with salmon fillets slowly cooking.

We headed over to find out more about what was happening. The fellow tending the fish was very friendly and told us that his niece was running for Makah days queen, and the salmon bake was a fund raiser for the event. He also told about having been out fishing yesterday with his brother, and that the fish being cooked were the ones they’d just caught. He described how the fire was made using alder wood, and cedar was used to hold the salmon on the upright pole. It takes around half an hour or so for the fish to cook this way.

I asked “how much?” and thought $10 a person sounded fine, so we lined up for a plate of salmon, potato salad, baked beans, watermelon and beverage. As I was paying, the candidate’s mother brought out a roll of tickets, and counted out 40. She then explained that we got two tickets for every dollar spent, and the tickets were for a raffle that will be held in August during Makah days. She told me to fill out my name on the back of one, and that she and her daughter would fill my name out on the others in the evening. It actually did make sense to me. I know that most small town community days (at least where we live) have royalty, and part of the decision on who is crowned queen is based on how many tickets of some sort they’ve sold. So, very good thinking! Hold a traditional salmon bake that really is a way to sell a lot of raffle tickets.

Will I get lucky in August and win the big raffle? Don’t really need to. I think we already got lucky with the fine salmon meal we were served.

Fireworks in the microwave!

With thoughts of Fourth of July firework displays all around the country today and tomorrow…..

A few days ago at work, one of the marketing managers stopped by the Technical Center to see if any of the food scientists could answer her food question: Why do you get sparks when you microwave celery?

Huh? Well, none of our R&D staff had any idea what she was talking about. She told about her mother putting cut up celery in the microwave to cook it, and noticing lots of sparks or flames coming from the celery soon after turning the microwave on. We all admitted to having no idea what was happening. So yesterday she brought celery in to work, and cut up some so we could see for ourselves. We put the little cubes of celery on a plate, popped it in the microwave, and within 10 seconds starting seeing flames shooting up from the celery. And then quickly turned off the microwave at that point….as we didn’t want to burn it out.

I was so taken by this that I tried it at home to impress Dave and see if he knew what was happening. It worked the same way – but just took a few seconds longer, probably because my home microwave is less powerful than the one at work. Dave offered some thoughts on what might be happening but really didn’t know either.

Not sure if I should say “don’t try this at home because it might break your microwave” or “please try this at home as you just have to see this for yourself”.