The Seattle food and wine show was last week. A quick look at the program shows what a deliciously diverse food culture has emerged in Seattle. But I still think of the big river and the big ocean -- that is, salmon -- as the number one food/place association for that part of the country.
Salmon is versatile. I've cooked it many different ways (poached, grilled, baked, broiled, planked, in parchment, etc.). As with most foods (and most other things), simple is better.
The Columbia River Gorge is spectacular. Others have written more eloquently than I ever could about its beauty and power. Interestingly, the Columbia is not just home to salmon, but to another anadromous migratory fish, the shad. According to John McPhee*, a few thousand American shad were taken from the Hudson River in 1871 and hauled to the west coast by train by a man named Seth Green, who worked for the New York Fish Commission. He put the shad into the Sacramento River. They liked it. The shad quickly multiplied, making their way up and down the Pacific Coast. They've done pretty well for a non-native species; the Columbia River is now the world's largest shad hatchery.
Richard Brautigan is a Tacoma native and I recall some stories or poems of his about fishing in Tacoma. Be damned if I can find them, though.
So I wrote a salmon poem myself.
Salmon recipe with options
Obtain a salmon of some weight
The type doesn’t matter
Coho, sockeye, king
Remove the skin
The fins, the head
These may be used as fertilizer for your azaleas
Place what remains of the salmon on a plank
The type doesn’t matter
Cedar, apple, ash
The plank should be soaked with beer
Or ale or malt liquor
Preferably something cheap
Put something on top of the salmon
That will add a bit of kick
Sage butter, balsamic vinegar, strawberry yogurt
Place the planked salmon in a very hot oven
Or on a grill fueled with anything that produces heat
Charcoal, wood, propane
Make everything else (the salad, the vegetable, the dessert)
Because the salmon will cook slowly on the plank
Absorbing the heat, the smoky flavor of the wood, and the topping
The salmon is cooked through
When the following conditions have been met:
The meat flakes easily and cleanly with a fork;
The plank is very hot, probably burnt to black on the edges; and
The guests are drawn to the kitchen out of
Hunger, boredom, or magic
Thanks for listening. Next stop: Kansas City!
* "The Founding Fish" copyright John McPhee 2002