10 April 2009

Fish Fries, Fishing, Sea Food and Markets in Paris

Spring is finally upon us. I think I said that a month ago. This time I mean it. About a week ago I began drooling over photographs and memories of Paris in April.

So I knew it was spring. Besides, it's Easter weekend, and that generally signals winter's certain departure. Yes, even the year spring was late (April 28) and we woke up to a thin cover of snow. Yup, even then.

For me, the first balmy days are usually accompanied by a fierce desire for sea food or fish. Here in Catholic Wisconsin, Friday fish fries are hugely popular all year round. Each restaurant has a slightly different take, but most serve fried fish with French fries, cole slaw, baked beans and rye bread.

When I was a child, it was hard to find certain types of fish or sea food in our area, but with a father in the restaurant business, that was no problem at our house. I never knew what I would come home to on Fridays: Lobster boiling or clams steaming. At noon, we had fish sticks and French fries with green peas.

I love the open-air fish markets of Paris, the gritty, briny bins of muscles or clams that make me want to cook them up with some garlicky white sauce and a bottle of well-matched white wine. But I am just as happy scarfing down a fish fry at the local family restaurant with its glorious view of the water, the brownish seagrasses glinting golden in the setting sun, and the string of glittering lights from across the bay.

And so I did tonight, and then we drove home along the river where hundreds of fishermen (and women) lined the shore or stood in shallow water in pursuit of smelt or sturgeon or whatever fish are running right now. I felt a little frisson of delight to see dozens of men in waders near the old scaling gap, and thought of my Irish great grandfather, a scaler in the lumber days, a lithe brown-haired man with nine lives. I saw bonfires lining the shores of the islands, and sensed the carnival atmosphere. It was almost like the old days, when smelt ran by the thousands and there really was a carnival with a smelt queen and smelt wrestling.

And then I remembered that some of the fishermen might be fishing out of necessity, not out of love for the sport, or for the damp spring night setting in on the eve of a holiday weekend, a spiritual holiday, but a time for family and celebrating just the same. I felt a bit sad, but not for long. We are blessed to have the river and the bay and the lovely night.

I hope you are blessed on this weekend.

5 comments:

cityfarmer said...

we are having a blessed weekend...thinking of you lately...doing some cooking that made me think of you.

a most blessed Easter to you

Betty C. said...

Hey Mimi -- Glad to see you're still out in the blogosphere. I've really dropped out of food-blogging circles for the moment. Just too labor-intensive and too much is going on. I still keep up with my two other blogs though. I just spent a weekend with Loulou of Chez Loulou -- you might want to check that out! It was grand...

http://franceprofonde.blogspot.com/2009/04/grand-getaway.html

MaryRuth said...

Hi Mimi--Happy Easter!
I managed to make it to two fish fries this Lent, one in WI and one here at a local church.
I remember going to the lakefront to see the smelt fishermen....seemed like a good excuse to drink beer and have a good time.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

CF, I finally found some time this weekend!

Betty, I beat a hasty path over to your place and I am so envious!

MR, nice to see you pop up! You got it!

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