Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’ve been busy with the usual school preparations, and was sorting through pens and pencils and notebooks while the music played on. I love this time of year — how the air smells, the cool nights, the kids’ nervous energy, the idea of book-filled backpacks and apple pie. I love school. Always have.
The difference this year is that not only are the three kids all in different schools, but one of them is going away to college. Away. And I’m having a bit of trouble sleeping at night because I am so excited for her. A bit envious, perhaps. This is it, I tell her. This is your time, and who knows what will happen next. The world is large and full of wonder, and she’s got the ignition key for the Big Tour Bus of Life. Where will she go? Whom will she bring home? What will she become? What great gift will she choose to give?
I lie awake thinking about how Mr. Sundberg and I have done our job. A few glitches along the way, mind you. But we’ve taught her how to live without us, and in a matter of hours, she’ll be off. Not that we won’t be here with to listen, to give advice, for emergency cash and duct tape and cookies. But, for all practical purposes, she’s on her way now, and it’s all right and good. Just as it should be.
I remember how she smelled as an infant. I know how she smells now. She smells like flowers and fresh air, and this is so painful, and if I’ve cried, it’s been only for a few moments now and then, thinking about her blue nail polish, her pale skin, her black Converse high-tops, and how, when she sleeps, she purrs. And what it feels like to hear her say, “Momma.”
The Big Cry will come later, probably sometime late in the evening, and it will feel pretty good. I may even go out in the backyard and do it, under the stars, where I don’t have to be as quiet, where I can lie in the grass — roll a bit, even — and let it all spill. It’s so hard to let go of my daughter, but she can’t be a beacon if her light don’t shine. And that’s all I have to say for the moment.
Here is a mouth-watering dish, perfect if you’ve just gone fishing in Alaska and have a boatload of salmon filets to cook up. Make a big ol’ salad on the side, and some warm bread, and fresh green beans.
1 1/2 # salmon
1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 c water
1/4 c vegetable/olive oil
Mix & refrigerate.
Brush olive oil on grill and grill 6-8 minutes each side. To bake in the oven, which works just fine, place filets skin side down with about half a cup of the marinade. Place in oven and bake about 15 minutes. Salmon will turn reddish-pink when it’s done.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Well, the show wasn’t bad, for sure. The reception wasn’t so great because I was way the heck out in Homer, Alaska, and I tried so hard to hear the whole show and I think by now I have heard it all after tuning in to the Prairie Home website, which is a godsend if I may say so.
To sum up those six days with my father in Alaska in one word is about as impossible as standing on one’s head on a trampoline. I could say it was fun, but I can say just about anything is fun. Sex can be fun, and eating cheese, and mowing the lawn. This was something else. It was a journey and when our plane landed here in the Midwest, my home, I was changed. Not a different woman, but different.
I caught a lot of fish. We did. Our limit of halibut and salmon in two days, and more than our limit, along with a number of sharks and odd fish I was not able to name. It rained nearly the entire trip, with sun at the beginning and the end, but it didn’t matter much. We had enough conversation to keep us going awhile, and some amazing meals including Alaskan King crab legs and rockfish and steamed clams which I have never before eaten, and some moments of silence together in landscapes it seems silly to photograph. How do you fit a mountain and all it is into a photo?
I know my father better now. He is a good man, a hard working, kind man who loves his wife and his children and his grandchildren and who gave much of his life to countless thousands of students, teaching them the intricacies of the natural world, the periodic chart, the human body. He’s at a fine place, where his passion for hunting and fishing takes him to fields and waters near and far, where he encounters people he knows everywhere he goes, and his blue-eyed smile, in sixty-some years, has not lost its charm.
It wasn’t so much a fishing trip to Alaska, really. It was time with the man who raised me, an opportunity to find each other again — which we did — and a stretch of days where what makes life really beautiful rose up out of the waves and swells and currents, sweet and scaled and shining, arcing against the horizon.
Find your parents and be with them a while, each alone or together, however it may go. Your children, too. Take some time and spend it. The laundry will be there, always. And so will the dishes, and the lawn needing a good mow. Onward, then, to the next thing.
Here’s a recipe from my father, a lovely, simple meal of fish. Try it with corn on the cob, blueberry muffins, maybe some fried potatoes. Cherry pie for dessert. His favorite.
Alaska Halibut Royale
1 1/2 lb halibut filets
1 cup dry white wine
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup minced green onions
Combine wine and salt; pour over halibut. Marinate in refrigerator for a good hour. Drain halibut on paper towel and dip each side in bread crumbs. Place in shallow buttered baking dish. Combine sour cream, mayonnaise and green onion and spread over halibut. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes per inch of thickness, measured at the thickest part, or until halibut flakes when nudged with a fork.
Makes 4 servings.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Mr. Keillor started his Summer Love Tour on Friday, I believe, with a show in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is planning to travel the country with somewhere around twenty shows in the next month or so. My gosh. Thank goodness he’ll be back in Minnesota for the State Fair on Friday the 2nd of September, and again for the season opener at the Fitzgerald on September 17th. I won’t make it to the state fair as I’m taking my daughter off to college that weekend and I may not be able to think clearly for a bit. The street dance, however, is possible, and there’s nothing like that evening out there, dancing to good music with good people, the scent of meatloaf in the air, and stars twinkling above.
I recently came across a quote that stuck with me, something a man named Frank Herbert wrote: “Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” I got to thinking about that Love Tour, and how some people understand about adventure, and that life is short and you get only one, and how easy it is to slide into a kind of comfortable routine where not much happens. Not that routine is bad, mind you. But I’m thinking Mr. Herbert is right — ain’t nothing gonna happen unless you get out there and make it happen. I don’t think I’d have it in me to do that many shows in a row, but Mr. Keillor does, and thank goodness for that. No sleeper, that man.
As for me, and mine, today is a routine day and I like it that way. I’m baking peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and finishing up the laundry, getting things ready round the house so I can have good peace of mind while I’m away fishing in Alaska with my father. A journey upon which we embark in the dark hours of Wednesday morning for six days of the Quest for the Halibut-Bigger-Than-I-Am. Yes, I know. It’s a little silly. You ought to see me in my fishing gear.
However, it IS a new experience. I recommend the New Experience. You’ll get a fluttery feeling in your chest, and misplace your insect repellent and your gardening/fishing/adventure bra as you prepare, and feel some apprehension about getting eaten by a bear. But you’ll be awake. Feel awake. Feel. Be. Oh, yes.
I can’t seem to get enough blueberries this year, and I’ve been throwing them into everything and everything into them. Here’s a really fine muffin with berries and wild rice. Home-style for sure, and sweet, and plain good.
Blueberry Wild Rice Muffins
1 cup fully cooked wild rice
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey or brown sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cup flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup blueberries
In medium bowl, mix rice, eggs, oil, honey (or brown sugar), buttermilk, and sour cream. In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in blueberries. Add ingredients from medium bowl into large bowl, stirring until just blended. Spoon into prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes. Makes 18 muffins.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Mr. Sundberg is away on a fishing trip to Canada and won’t be home til the weekend. We’ll have a few days together and I’ll get on a plane for my own fishing trip to Alaska with my father, who has been going halibut fishing every summer for a week in the Gulf of Alaska these past few years.
I’m no experienced fisherperson, to be sure. I fished with cheap poles and bobbers in the lakes of my youth, and know how to bait a line, cast, set the hook, reel it in, and remove the fish. Even if it’s swallowed the hook. But I have never pulled in anything bigger than 18 inches or so, as I recall. I’m not sure how successful I’ll be reeling in a halibut, especially one as big as I am, which I plan to catch, but I’m not losing any sleep over it. Seems there is much more to fishing than the fish, anyway.
Like cultivating patience. Good fishermen and women seem to know this. You sit and wait, and wait some more. And you develop defense mechanisms to ward off insanity while you wait. Distractions. I imagine this is why fisherpeople drink beer. And why conversations turn to the big questions, and why there are so many jokes told and stories shared. Patience brings good things, I tell my kids. My father taught me that. And so did Mr. Sundberg, bless his heart. Waited for him all my life.
These aren’t Mr. Sundberg’s favorite cookies, but they’re right up there on the list of The Best Things to Eat. Serve ’em on a sunny afternoon with lemonade. Or beer, even. Why not. It’s August in Minnesota, which means winter’s on its way.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
6 ounces shredded, unsweetened coconut (about a cup)
7 ounces whole macadamia nuts (about 1 1/2 cups)
Preheat oven to 300º F. In a medium bowl, combine flour, soda and salt. Mix well with a whisk. In a large mixing bowl, blend sugars. Add the butter, and mix to form a grainy paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add eggs and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture, coconut, and macadamia nuts to the sugar mixture, and stir until combined. Do not over-mix. Drop batter by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, 2 inches or so apart. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’ve been keeping busy as I’m sure you have. Never one to get bored because there is, always, inevitably, the next thing. This week it was fishing and haircuts and mowing and a root canal that never happened (thank the Lord). Then it was a meal of eggrolls and salad and noodles. Now it’s house cleaning and thoughts toward school and supplies and bus numbers…but not yet.
No, not yet. There’s more of summer, a few more adventures, and then I’ll entertain thoughts of backpacks and calculators. My gosh, the words “fish pie” have been on my list for weeks now and I haven’t gotten to it. Doesn’t that sound good? I mean, think about it. Minnesota is all about fishing, and some of the best bakers in the world live here. You’d like fish pie would be a staple. I heard someone mention it in a news story back in June and it won’t leave my head. So I’ve been looking, and if I can’t find it, I’ll create it.
What I did find in my meanderings was gummy bear brats. Yes. For real. At a little place on 61 called “Grundhofer’s.” Heard about that in the news, too, and had to find out for myself, and sure enough, there they were – lovely plump brats with little colored gummy bears pressing their little gummy hands and faces to the inside of the brat skin. I couldn’t not try them.
They were something else. The only surprise was that I expected little pools of brightly-colored gel in the meat. When I bit into it, no more gummy bears. But there was an amazing sugary coating on that brat, and I ate the whole thing. And then another. Wonderful.
The world is full of adventure. And surprises. Let’s hope the popularity of fish potpie will be one of them. Here’s to gilled creatures, and to risk. Ahoy, matey.
You can never have enough varieties of salad. And should you reach the “no more” point, try this one. You’ll eat your words.
Napa Cabbage Salad
1 good head of Napa cabbage
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
2 T soy sauce
Stir together in small saucepan. Bring to a boil; boil one minute.
2T sesame seeds
1 pkg Ramen noodles, dry and broken up into small pieces
Saute in lightly oiled skillet til lightly toasted. Sprinkle with a bit of soy while cooking.
Shred cabbage thinly (about half an inch) and at a vertical angle. Place in large bowl. Pour cooled dressing over, stir well. Sprinkle with crunch topping.
Serve with Oriental meals, grilled teriyaki chicken, shrimp kabobs.