All families have secrets that children instinctively know are not to be revealed. And this is the story of just how one secret was born.
Parents can be forgiven for taking whatever measures necessary to get through the day. Within reason, of course. Therein lies a grey area.
Our cottage experience drifted into that grey area one idyllic summer morning.
Mother couldn’t resist the invitation to spend a week at a rental cottage on a lake with her brother, whom she adored, and her sister-in-law as well.
Mother loved an adventure and threw herself into it with all of her considerable energy. Fresh air! Hiking! Canoeing! Fishing! Hooray! She did her level best to generate enthusiasm in her three bookish, resistant children, to force them up the steep incline of her inclinations.
Upon reflection, we probably did enjoy some aspects of this excursion, as we paddled our canoe through the pristine waters – you get the picture.
But there were a few obstacles weighing down Mother’s natural buoyancy.
For one thing, children are children with all that entails. I will admit to a level of whining and eye rolling, in-fighting and stomping away to dramatic effect.
Aunt Edna and Uncle Louis had no children. But, this did not stop Edna from proffering advice from the lofty height of her lack of practical experience. If Aunt Edna had had children, they would have been far better behaved. Every misstep was pointed out to Mother, with suggestions as to how she might have done better. Mother held her tongue.
But we were “at the lake” and we were going to enjoy it!
Mother loved to foist her fledgling fishermen out of their relatively comfortable cots at the very crack of dawn. Mist hovering on the surface of the lake, we pushed off reluctantly to appreciate the beauty of the morning and to catch sunfish for breakfast. And we succeeded, by golly! It wasn’t very long before we had a nice pail of gaping, google-eyed sunfish ready for the pan.
Well almost ready. There was the slight problem of decapitating, eviscerating, and scaling them before we could move on to the sizzling butter part of the process.
What to do? Of her many enthusiasms, cleaning fish was not high on Mother’s list. But then, when the going gets tough, the tough hatch a plan. The children would clean the fish. “This will be your job,” she chirped with as much gusto as she could muster. She demonstrated the process as we watched, frankly disgusted. Until she added, as an afterthought, “Just pretend that they are someone you don’t like, and it’ll be fun!” And it was. It really was! We beheaded and eviscerated Aunt Edna repeatedly, with the bloodthirsty enthusiasm of little axe murderers!
At the time, we expected that Mother intended to reprimand us for being so disrespectful to Auntie. In retrospect, I’m not so sure.
When the week was over and we were heading home, Aunt Edna asked us what we had enjoyed the most about our holiday and was amazed when we all said, “Cleaning fish!” Mother just smiled knowing that the secret was safe with us.
It’s best if you have a large, well-seasoned cast iron frying pan for this occasion, but that could just be nostalgia on my part. Nonstick will do admirably. The secret to not sticking to to be sure the pan is good and hot before the food hits it!
Slice raw potatoes and season and fry in butter until golden brown. While that’s going on, dredge the fish fillets in flour. Set the potatoes aside. Add more butter to the pan. A bit more than you think you should. We’re on holidays after all. Fry your eggs. Set aside. Sizzle the fish fillets in even more butter. Don’t overdo the fish. Never overcook fish! If you do this in quick succession, if the heat is high enough, and if the stars are aligned, you will have a crisp and crunchy feast bathed in a sauce of eggy richness, that will remain in your memory long after the last sunset over the lake.
To see more o f Janeen’s or to contact her go to: