One summer, aged eighteen, I worked for the NAS International Biological Program, counting tardigrades and copepods in tundra soil samples. Most everyone else was a graduate student earning money during the vacation and the Arctic biome around Barrow/Utqiaġvik was a very long way from home. Mothers and girlfriends would send cardboard boxes of brownies, wrapped carefully in waxed paper, and we would await these despatches eagerly. The recipient would offer the box around before taking the letter and remains back to their Quonset hut bunk.
Something a bit different for Christmas week. Light the fire, put on Ski Trails* and imagine you are holed up in a little Alaskan cabin with snow to the door, Arcturis in the sky and plenty of this season's salmon in the cache.
My own ancestral link to chowder would have to be the hard tack eaten by sailors. These days there seems to be a lot of cream in chowder, but I don't think cream would have survived for long out on the Grand Banks. More likely a mush of hard tack and water. I imagine the cod fisherman eating saltfish chowder on the outbound journey and fresh cod chowder on the return ...
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 …
Cook the salmon portion in a pan or under the grill. Once cooked, squeeze over plenty of lime juice and a grind of black pepper. Leave while you make the salad. Put a teaspoonful of oil and vinegar in a largish bowl. Then add the lettuce leaves, endive, spring onions, sliced peppers, coriander/dill leaves, chilli, garlic pepper and salt. Toss them all together.
These days I buy the fish I eat. But I was very fortunate indeed to be given a fabulous trout by a dedicated fisherman, Mike. After washing and gutting and washing again I stuffed it with fresh herbs, rubbed it with salt, pepper and a tiny bit of olive oil, wrapped it in baking paper and tinfoil and baked it in the oven until cooked. Then unwrapped and ate it with salad and potatoes. Thank you Mike.
My sister and I have slightly different versions of this intro, it could have happened to both of us a year apart or maybe we were all in the same story together but anyway this is how I remember it:
This supper dish cannot be called eggplant/melanzane parmigiana, but both those items figure in the ingredients. There are beans where no beans ought to be, I have cut down on cheese, and there are no defined layers. But it tastes very like it and definitely fits into the general category of cucina povera. It is one of my favourites.