Saturday, July 26, 2008


Chris' entry about childhood foods brought to mind visions of my grandmother.  She loved to fish.  When we were children, my sibs and I often spent weeks with her in her small Oklahoma town during the summers.  She'd take us out to local farm ponds and creeks with our poles and wigglers and big straw hats, and we'd sit for hours watching the cork bob up and down and pull in the occasional perch.  Or perhaps I should say that she'd sit for hours, and my sisters and I would sit for fifteen minutes and then spend the rest of the time running around in the woods like wild children.

Oklahoma creeks and farm ponds are home to catfish, perch, and crappy (a type of perch, pronounced "croppy" and not "crappy" at all.) All of these varieties of fish have tender white flesh and are very bony, requiring the utmost care to eat.  However,  having to eat the fish slowly, so slowly, and chew so carefully to avoid swallowing one of the hundreds of tiny bones only enhanced the dining experience.  

Wash and scrape the scales.  Cut of the head, slice down the belly from stem to stern, and pull out the innards.  Butterfly the fish and peel out the backbone and as many of the larger bones as possible.  Rinse the fish again.  Fish guts make very good fertilizer for the garden.  You can keep the cats and dogs out of the garden better if the viscera are well composted before using.

The unpleasant job of cleaning is well worth it for the meal with which you are rewarded.  Oh, how good the fish tastes, rolled in cornmeal and fried quickly in bacon grease until the tender white flesh is encased in a golden crust.  Large fish may be cut into fillets, small fish may be halved or fried whole.  Dip the cleaned fish in cornmeal -- or in egg, then flour -- or nothing at all, if you are a purist.  Put enough drippings or lard in the bottom of an iron skillet to float the fish.  Heat the fat, but don't let it smoke.  Fry the fish slowly, flesh side down, turning when lightly browned.

1 comment:

zhadi said...

Yummm....I love seafood - probably my favorite food (I'll eat sashimi any time I can get it!) and while the thought of cleaning/fileting a fish is intimidating, the results sounds scrumptious!