OK sounds pretentious methinks. But so it should. Who are we to pretend we are chefs or gourmet specialists? So that is the disclaimer. But we can cook and have a few tricks to share and so we will.
I personally prefer Ling Cod over Halibut any day of the week and Rockfish even more than Ling. Folks seem to seek out halibut more readily and I think it may be a marketing response. Halibut has been heavily marketed over the past 5 years and has become more desirable through this process. And don’t be mistaken; it tastes great, it is just harder to cook. Is it more delicate? Doubtful, but possibly if you can manage to not miss the 30 second window between perfection and overdone. It is such a delicate flesh in fact that it doesn’t hold together well if the cooking time goes over even a moment. Not a good choice for fish and chips unless you are a master… Ling Cod on the other hand seems to take abuse or distraction, and if you are feeding more than 2 people distraction will ensue. Plus it tastes amazing.
Once, many years ago, we gathered a group of victims (I mean volunteers) to take a taste test between these three different types whitefish. While not blindfolded, tasters were presented with a platter of 3 types of fish, all cooked in the same method but unlabeled and made to look similar (no big slabs of Ling, no long pointy Halibut tails and no curly Rockfish sides), in other words no distinguishing features. Interestingly, by a ratio of 3+:1 tasters chose the rockfish. Second choice was Ling Cod and the Halibut was a sorry third place. Not that there was anything wrong with the Halibut I stress, it is just hard to keep it at its peak when anything else gets in the way. By the time the tasting was presented the Halibut had lost some of its …. panache.
In my opinion this issue is because of the purported delicacy. Ling Cod and Rockfish are denser and densest. They have more oomph to them and a bit more resiliency. In other words, you can make a timing error with them and still pull the meal off.
I realize that everyone out there has a recipe for Halibut that works and is a family legend. This wee blogpost is based on simplicity and years of cooking all three types fish many ways with mixed results. I need consistency, not variation when serving meals. Much like cooking chocolate chip cookies, once you find a recipe that really works, if you are only going to do it occasionally why change it? No insult to all the other zillions of outstanding recipes, just a need to know how it will look on the plate and taste in the mouth every time.
You can find my favourite method for cooking all three types of whitefish here. I look forward to the variations that you folks will come up with. Breanna’s fish taco recipe is also included on the recipe page of our website (it is stellar using whitefish scraps).
Before I go, a word about freezing. Fish processing as we preform it at the lodge is the very best way to keep fish fresh for a very long time. Having said that, I personally want to use my Halibut and Ling Cod up within 12 months. Something changes in the flesh, they often experience a colour change, and when the packages are opened they have a little more aroma. Rockfish I haven’t noticed this with but we get so little of it that it is used up before a year in anywise.
So folks, get into those freezers and start using up that amazing product.
Folks come to visit us during the season (April - October) for a fishing adventure, for a wildlife experience, to paddle in peace, and generally to simply relax. Folks do not come to visit Quatsino in storm season. It is because being as far inside the inlet as we are, while storms blow and fuss they generally have reduced their ferocity by the time they get here having been buffered by the various hills and islands and funneled into many varied directions weakening the attack. Don’t get me wrong, we have storms. Many is the night I have gone down to the dock after midnight to check on things. There is even an evil wind that comes through on a different angle a couple times a year and keeps the entire lodge awake while imitating an airplane attempting to land on the roof.
But for folks wanting to watch storms, go right out to the West Coast because only there do you get the wave action that is both so impressive and so damaging. So it was a missed opportunity for storm watchers this November 17 as 150km/hour+ winds ravaged the area; toppling trees, sinking boats and removing docks indiscriminately. The poor residents who were here for the event to a person stated they had never ever experienced anything as bad as this storm in their lifetimes. Even Harry from Coal Harbour, who many of you have either met or heard of, Harry who is 85, says he cannot remember experiencing anything this bad, ever.
Picture this: in Coal Harbour, where we fuel up the boats and pick up our guests, the entire commercial side the dock has been wrenched off kilter. One metal boat put a very large hole the side of a commercial troller both tied to the gas dock side of the harbour. Other boats in Quatsino tied to the government wharf - a protected dock - had waves 5 feet cresting over the top of them. Many places found the Quatsino road underwater and when the waves receded, impassible with logs and other flotsam (and a goodly amount of jetsam as well). Truly, walking the road this past week, I have never seen so much garbage washed up onto the road and beside it (styrofoam, plastic bottles, planks and various other human debris) amongst the tree limbs, leaves, tree needles, kelp, sticks, logs and trees.
Riding into Quatsino on the mailboat, the Narrows was thick and brown, the colour of coffee with cream. It looked like the Amazon River had come to Quatsino. I wonder what significant changes the river underwent during this incredible wind and rain event? It will be months before I dare to venture up there, Limestone holds water and releases it slowly. It will be high for a long time.
The property next door to ours had their pilings let loose and release their entire dock. This was not good for the two boats that had been tied to that float. Past them the next home’s floating dock was lifted right up and out of the water, firmly planting itself in their lawn. Hydro spent 7 days out here and during that time dealt with over 200 trees as well as fixed multiple downed lines. A property approximately 2 kms closer to the ocean than ours lost the portion of their wharf that provides access from the walkway down connecting to the floating part of the dock - the moving part of their ramp. Gone. Continuing down the road there was a home with huge logs under it as well as past it and up onto the road. That home no longer has the wooden walkways (similar to the one we have going from the lodge to the dock). All gone.
Firmly planted below our dock and just to one side of our float house is half a cedar tree with its head stuck into the mud but its broken end waving about just above the surface of the water. We no longer have a garden in front of our lodge but we do have tons of beach gravel deposited where the garden was. The logs that had lived on that beach for as long as we can remember are now up and past the garden and over the lawn by at least 2 feet. Time to decide if we want to mow less?
The high tide mark is higher than any winter storm I ever have seen. One of the heavy metal chairs on the deck flew from the deck to the beach. I still cannot figure out how that would be possible. We did lose some random items off the dock and the smoke house has seen better days but we were incredibly fortunate. If the wind had come from a different direction things might have been different. It took 3 days to hear from our caretaker as she couldn’t get from her home to ours and there were no phones. Finally she found someone with a cell and data and that is how we got word that the SeaPig was still with us. Yes Virginia, there are people in the world without cell phones.
It will take us a few weeks work to remove the debris but we are very grateful that we were spared the damage of many of the other places.
I have heard that land erosion occurs suddenly, not as we have all been taught slowly and steadily over time. I think it really is true. The major changes seen in our environment here, which include in many places meters of shoreline completely removed, hillsides slipping from severe saturation, trees toppled and ground exposed to both rain and sunlight, rivers vomiting out topsoil and vegetation. It only takes one major storm event to implement huge and permanent change. We are rather minuscule in the face of mother nature.
6.5 days with no power. Hard to imagine isn’t it? One freezer was frozen shut - always a bad thing. It had thawed and refrozen. Most of our freezers were off, thankfully (and I guess some of that stuff could have been tossed at the end of the season). Now that snowy freezer is empty and clean. Probably a better situation…
Yes indeed we are fortunate and very grateful. It is hard to understand the impact of having no power for a week or being stranded when your boat (and dock) washes away. Country life has its benefits but also its pitfalls. But life continues on, summer comes and we forget that winter is coming.
All of you who have fished at Quatsino Lodge over the past 11 years have met Tyee. Ty is a very important member of the Lodge family. But after knee surgery and (ahem) a slight weight problem, Tyee has decided to get an apprentice - someone to share the heavy lifting as it were.
This summer Tyee wrote letters to a number of vets however, he was starting to get concerned by the end of August as they had all returned his inquiries with letters saying they had not seen any suitable puppies. Fortunately, in September he received a response that a puppy was waiting for him and would be ready by mid-October. Tyee was really excited and when Finnegan came he was overjoyed. But then the next day when he got up the puppy was still there and that is when he realized ….. having an apprentice would be a full-time 24/7 experience.
It has taken about 6 weeks but we are all happy to report that the light at the end of the puppy tunnel is getting bigger. While it was touch and go for a while, Tyee has realized that minny Finny can actually listen and learn. So Tyee has put his paws to paper here to attempt to convey some of the most critical responsibilities and expectations of the Lodge Dog job to the pup.
“This is a very good job Finn. It gives you purpose as a dog and brings meaning to the mat at the door. Take these instructions seriously. There are many, many other dogs out there who would love to have this job. Ever hear the expression “you lucky dog”?
Well, at least you have a good fishy name Finnegan. It can be shortened to Finn, excellent fish reference just like my name and if they are annoyed with you it is pretty obvious because they will call you Finnegan in a really big voice. Always stop whatever you are doing and go find out what they want. That makes them stop yelling and often there is an ear scratch involved.
Before we get started with the guest side of the job you need know that every Lodge needs a dog with a big voice and a brave heart. There are bears, wolves and cougars out there and they will come in to the yard if you let them. But barking is your only weapon with cougars and wolves. DON’T GO NEAR THEM as they eat dogs. You especially. Bears are dumb. They are afraid of us dogs no matter how big they are and no matter how small we are but they have sharp claws so just bark a lot from a distance and make sure your people come to investigate.
Strangers will come into the yard as well and it is very important to bark and let your people know they are there and to make sure the strangers know you know. DO NOT GO NEAR THEM unless your people say it is OK. Barking a warning is being a guard and is a critical part of this job. But don’t bark just because, especially at night. That upsets people because they think there is a danger. They don’t understand just barking for fun.
"A lodge dog is a staffer with a specific set of jobs that no one else can do. So you have to be in good shape Finn. Every time a boat comes to the dock, we have to go see who it is. Sometimes the people inside the Lodge don’t notice the boat coming. That is when we have to let them know. This can be done by running past the kitchen window a few times with your ears up or just bark a few times and look to see if they notice. When they do, start trotting to the dock. Always wait politely for the boat. Wag and be very friendly because one of your jobs is being a greeter. NEVER JUMP UP. That is an automatic fail.
And now I will warn you about the pitfall of greeting the boats. Everyone has treats for you. DON’T TAKE THEM even if they smell good. You are a Lab. You don’t need much food to maintain your size.
So once the people have stepped onto the dock you go from person to person letting them pat you and talk to you. Make sure you visit everyone. Then you will notice that people will need to be shown how to find the lodge. If you see someone going up the ramp get up there and walk them the Lodge. Then report back to me. I will stay down at the dock and watch the coolers. This part of your job is called being a guide.
When the folks are finished fishing and have returned to the Lodge they may go up and down to the boats a lot. Or perhaps you can distract them by offering a stick or a ball. Fishing folks do to like to play with dogs and especially if you offer a toy. Just don’t play tug. It is a nasty vet visit if you lose a tooth. And vets have thermometers. Remember I said you have to be in good shape? Especially for this part of your job. You are also an entertainer Finn. When you grow up you might not be afraid of the water anymore (sigh - a lab who doesn’t swim?) and you might chase sticks or even swim with the seal.
"Of course you never go anywhere inside the lodge except the doorway. They think it is because we are well trained. Actually it is because the floor is very slippery for dog claws, think Bambi on ice. Better to let them think we know our place. And this is the place the food comes to.
Oh, one more thing about the door. Sometimes guests or staff are lonely for their own dogs. When this happens they will come to your mat and spend time with you. Sometimes they even get onto your mat with you. It is important to let them talk to you without nipping them or shredding their clothes and help them miss their own pet. In this job you are also a confidant.
We sleep inside at night at the door on the mat. Not in any of the staff rooms. Very important!
"Certain animals will come to the lodge. Most are welcome. NEVER CHASE DEER…never. And don’t chase the Mink. You can pretend but really stay far back. Fake the chase. That stinky minky has really nasty claws and fangs and she will win. Bears as I mentioned are dumb but till you are more skilled stay back. No one likes the Canada Geese on the lawn but they won’t come in while you are around. They are afraid of you already. The seal is a lot of fun. He doesn’t come often but when he does he swims along the beach to give me time get down there and then we swim. I never catch him but it is always fun. So as the entertainer, you may be called upon to swim with the seal one day. I will keep this job for the time being though. It is sooooo fun.
"Guests like to go for walks. But they are usually used to going for a walk with a dog. So you will be invited for many walks - sometimes 3 or 4 in a day. I simply can’t do that many walks anymore but you can do lots. You have to be ready at any time after the boats arrive. Your leash is at the door. Make sure you are polite about it. You will like this part of the job. This function is called being a good guest walker. It also makes the guests feel safer in the wilderness. And remember some guests are slower than you. Don’t force guests to walk at your speed. You pace yourself to their speed because it is their walk, not yours.
And sometimes, only occasionally and with only certain guests, you will be invited aboard to go fishing for an afternoon or a morning. I prefer to keep this job for myself but it will happen. Be polite. Do not jump onto laps without being invited. Be sure to lavish the guests who invited you with all sorts of attention. Be sure to listen for instructions from the Captain. Stay out of the way when the fish are being caught. Try to stay clean and dry if possible. You want to smell fresh, not fishy. This part of your job is called being a companion.
"In the fall you will be called upon to attend staff members who want to go into the woods foraging. Your primary focus of course is to warn them if there is anything in the woods that might be dangerous. I call this activity guardian dog but as a benefit it also provides excellent walk and sniffing opportunities.
You will find that we are part of the memories for many guests and staff if we do our job right. It is important to form as many friendships as we can with those who come to the Lodge. Many of them will look forward to seeing us for years and years. We are a big part of this team.
If I had to sum up the key traits of a good Lodge dog Finn, they would include bravery, gentleness, thoughtfulness, respect, fitness, patience, and being a good listener"
And with that Tyee settles into his dog mat for a good nap. By next spring Finn will be able to remember most of these instructions and by having them written out, Tyee will remember too. Both pups eagerly anticipate the spring fishing and guests and are looking forward to greeting and walking all summer.