That summer of 1965 we disembarked at Haines on my sister’s birthday. Father drove us along the 800 miles of partly surfaced highway to Anchorage, with an overnight stop at Tok. Moving home again. But at least together this time. There wasn’t a radio in the car, so we just had to imagine ‘Girl Don’t Tell Me’.
Finally getting out at Turnagain, Mother inspected the house, a ranch style bungalow. The evening temperature was 50. Fahrenheit. A long way from California and the Beach Boys.
“Well, it’s August, what do you think will grow, Lawrie?”
They decided on nasturtiums. Within weeks these were flowering, as I settled in to my fourth school in just over two years*. Mother made the new place a wonderful home, but didn’t cook with the nasturtiums. She was from Gravesend, via the world.
At the beginning of lockdown no garden centres were open. So I sorted out sunflower seeds from the bird food and planted them. A rummage at the back of the shed produced half packets of Italian pumpkin and nasturtium seeds – Tropaeolum majus ‘Alaska’.
- Ingredients: A few nasturtium leaves and flowers, washed. A handful of mixed salad leaves, sliced spring onions, cucumber, one or two flavourful tomatoes, a few slices of romano peppers, a few leaves of fresh basil, marjoram and or parsley, 20-30 ml olive oil, 2 eggs, the juice of half a lemon, salt, black pepper.
Optional: Wild Alaskan red salmon filet, (aka sockeye. Other salmon, trout or mackerel are fine too), new potatoes, rice, brown bread, black olives.
Cook the salmon filet in a hot pan with very little oil. When it is done take it out to rest and add the slices of romano pepper and diced chili. Stir them around on a medium heat until the edges are browned.
Put 2 eggs in a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Take one egg out and leave the other one for a minute more. Leave to cool.
Put a little oil and lemon juice in a large bowl with salt and pepper. Add the sliced spring onions, mixed leaves, sliced tomatoes and peppers.
Make a cooked mayonnaise – open the first egg and remove the yolk, which will be very soft. Put it in a medium sized bowl, add a squeeze of lemon juice, black pepper and maybe a squidge of mustard. Amalgamate with a wooden spoon. Then, still stirring, drip in olive oil (20-30 ml should do it) until the mixture forms peaks. Stir in some of the cooked diced chili.
Now just mix the mayonnaise with the salad leaves. You can flake in the salmon or serve it on the side. Halve the second egg and place on top, along with the nasturtium flowers. Good with new potatoes, rice or bread and butter.
A few years ago we walked out of downtown along the Coastal Trail to find our house. It looked just the same. But no nasturtiums.
*JH Romig or ‘simply the best’