I did my first guest blog post for the wonderful Holistic Wayfarer at the site A Holistic Journey! Click on the Source title to read about how I kept myself amused while struggling to learn German (and yes, it was a struggle).
My father was a fisherman. If you grow up in the house of someone who takes his fishing seriously, you learn to love fish.
Although I can’t imagine that scenario.
My childhood was filled with family camping trips where brook trout, large and small mouth bass, sunfish, perch and blue gills filled the menu. This is one of the only times I was glad I don’t have brothers, because my sisters and I got to fish with Bobbo. Now I’m not saying a son would have been his sole fishing companion, but in all likelihood that would’ve been one of their bonds. As it was, one girl rowed the boat while Bobbo and the others cast lines off the back. If we all hiked in to a back pond in the Adirondacks, one of us floated on the second, mini inflatable raft and did her own fishing.
When everyone moved away and established adult lives, visits to see Mom and Bobbo always included a meal of fish. I remain unspeakably moved that my father began to freeze the fish he caught, making sure there’d be enough when everyone came home for the holidays. Every family has its own food traditions. For the Campbells, one of the best is fish for breakfast. The simplest and best of recipes, whether prepared over a campfire or on the stove in your fancy kitchen is: Fry some bacon until crisp. Dredge trout in seasoned corn meal. Fry the fish in the bacon drippings. Serve with the bacon, scrambled eggs, Sandy’s coffee cake or toast with jam (preferably homemade by somebody you know and love), mugs of hot coffee and glasses of juice.
Trust me. I expect to eat this meal in Heaven.
Flash forward to my recent trip to visit my sister Pam in China’s New Territories.The town of Sai Kung receives lots of weekend day trippers from Hong Kong who come for the green scenery and the quieter pace. And to eat, because Sai Kung’s waterfront is lined with restaurants.
Almost all of them keep live fish and crustaceans in tanks out in front.
Customers bring their own catch and pay a fee to have it prepared based on weight, or you can select the seafood of your choice. The restaurant will prepare it steamed with ginger, cooked with soy sauce and scallions, or deep fried and served with a sweet and sour sauce.
Pam and I sat down at an outdoor table to order. The waitress had us follow her over to the live tanks and we chose snapper.
Choosing our meal was more intimidating than it sounds. Some of the fish were ridiculously huge. How much would our fish cost? She eyeballed it and announced, 450$HK, plus the fee to prepare it. Not cheap.
What if a group of customers came in and ordered a one hundred pound fish? What would that cost? Could the cooks prepare it whole? Just how big a fish can a deep fat fryer hold, anyway?
A short time later a man brought out our fried snapper. He gave us a few seconds to appreciate its sizzling and then upended a plate of sweet and sour sauce. The sauce contained bright, chewy, sweet strips that we finally identified as preserved citrus peel. True daughters of a fisherman, we stripped that fish carcass clean.
As someone who believes in freedom of thought and speech, I was horrified by the attacks in Paris. I’m only a few train hours away and visit there gladly. The murders were way too close to where I live, on every single literal and metaphoric level you care to mention.
Uwe and I spent our honeymoon here. We visited eight museums in three days with our city pass and rewarded ourselves with great meals every evening. My husband has business trips to Paris, and sometimes I meet him before or afterwards. On the last trip we dined in a small restaurant where I ordered a meal that came with french fries. One bite, and I knew I was tasting something I’d read about but never had the pleasure of trying: potatoes fried in duck fat. They were sublime.
On another trip the Metro was on strike. We decided not to wait on the platform for a crowded city train. Instead, we went to a bistro with tables so tiny and close together that Uwe and I bumped knees under ours. A portly man sat at the next table with a salad that included slices of pear and fois gras on toast points. Beside his plate was a half carafe of house wine and a carafe of water. An entire fish baked on fennel halves arrived. He expertly dissected the fish and ordered more wine.
My salade nicoise was salty with anchovies. I watched waiters make their way through the packed bistro, food trays held above their heads. The patrons were businessmen and women, students, and families with small children. Not a seat was free. When we left, my neighbor had a platter of cheeses in front of him and showed no signs of slowing eating. I was sorry we had to leave before he got dessert.
My friend Shaun met me for a week one year. We washed lettuce in the bathroom sink of our obnoxiously small apartment. Warning to future travelers to Paris, triple check when a holiday rental promises it has a real working kitchen! This kitchen was two burners in a closet.  But we sat on a park bench and shared a cheese crepe we’d bought from a vendor on the street. She introduced me to (and got me hooked on) vibrant, dry Sancerres. And we ordered steak and pommes frites from the menu written on a little chalk board in a café with red checked table cloths and candles in wine bottles. We found that place by walking a block past the tourist spots.
Once I traveled to Paris with my sisters and our friend Chris. Paris with three artists is daunting. We went to one museum per day and I’d watch as all three of them sketched madly in concentration. Then we’d go shopping for ingredients to cook that night. A moveable feast indeed.
If Bangkok is the most sexual city I’ve ever been to, Paris is the most sensual. A simple omelette is a marvel, with beaten eggs of impossibly silky texture. Pastries nestle in windows. Each bakery, patisserie, café and place to eat calls out “Come here, mon petit!”
And, like any wise lover of food, I go. Je mange Paris.
NOTES:  You read that correctly. The kitchen was two burners in a closet and a miniature sink too small to wash a head of lettuce.