I had an interesting experience the other day. One that made me want to share it somehow. After giving the experience a good deal of thought I realized that this situation or the feeling it left me with could be replicated in many arenas; for example at the Lodge. Rather than flashing off a nasty review on some social media platform based on one experience I thought I would flesh it out here.
Basically the problem is about tipping protocol. I was purchasing take-out, which I am wont to do about once a month. I, being a creature of habit, usually order the same meal from the same restaurant. I go pick up the meal, pay then and leave a tip with the server. It has bothered me excessively though what is appropriate to leave. It isn’t like I am using up space inside a building, creating dishes, needing constant checking, having water refilled, having anything much done for me. I just drive up, grab my goods, and go. I understand tipping and what it is for and I am a generous client if I have been well treated, even for take-out. Still this isn’t the issue, just the screen upon which the story is played.
This time I was having someone else run in to grab the meal. Being the erstwhile and responsible hostess I decided to call the restaurant to see if I could pay in advance. I could. The uninterested voice on the phone asked me if I wanted to leave a tip. I said I would leave that to the person picking up the meal to pay. The now authoritative voice said “but if you do that I won’t get my tip.” Realizing this is a great opportunity to address my ongoing curiosity about appropriate tipping and foolishly making the assumption that tipping was a recognition of something special or extra or even indicative of some kind of service, I asked the loaded question: “Maybe you can help me. I know that take-out doesn’t get the same service as in house and I have always wondered how the tip should differ for take out as compared to restaurant service. Can you tell me?”
His very quick answer was “It doesn’t. It is the same.”
OK. I was a bit surprised.
I explained that I thought the tip should be tied to service, and asked then how would the server who took care of making sure the meal is done on time and delivered to my car would be taken care of. He said they wouldn’t and neither would the kitchen. His shift was over at 4:30 and he wouldn’t get anything if I didn’t pay then. So I asked him in that case what was he going do to deserve a tip. His answer was that he was going to ring it into the till. He explained that he was the bartender after all. I was not sure why that made any difference. That was when I told him I would call back after 4:30 to pay off the invoice so that those who did something for me would receive something return. He was not amused. But such entitlement was offensive.
I hung up and realized that I had just been held hostage by some nameless, lazy, disinterested and entitled employee. The owner/manager of the restaurant would never know and I would be far less likely to go there again (not because of bad food as it is always excellent) but because I had been basically panhandled by someone who could care less about me and expected a gift for breathing. In the back of my mind was a niggling thought “what would he do to my order?”
Ohhhh I could get started on people who want to be paid for breathing…but I digress.
How on earth does this relate to fishing and Quatsino Lodge you ask?
When folks call me to book I often am asked about appropriate tipping. There is a number of folks who come to me upon arrival at the lodge and ask me then. There are still more who ask as they are making final payment and then there are those who take matters into their own hands.
The thing is, a tip according to the online dictionary is: "a sum of money customarily given by a client or customer to certain service sector workers for the service they have performed, in addition to the basic price of the service." So it is for SERVICE that is IN ADDITION. In my world a tip is a gift and a thank you for a great experience, for something special and it should only be made in comfort and if the giver is feeling like giving.
Yes I have to admit that a tip is generally expected and this is partially a cultural construct and partly not. We are culturally trained to give a gift of thanks and it is a wonderful thing and feels good when the recipient has earned it. Some people depend on tips to make ends meet. I get that. But tips must be earned. They are not simply obligatory. But when one is left feeling that nothing more was received other than what was originally agreed upon then the tip becomes a toll and leaves a bad taste after you leave. It is subtle but there.
When I am asked I always say the same thing. A gratuity is a gift, not a tax, and is up to the guest. I explain that everyone comes from a different financial and cultural experience and that each needs to feel comfortable with the amount they leave. Then I give a range of options for people to help them decide what they are comfortable with. I also stress that if someone is not happy with their trip they should first come to me and let me know and then do not feel obligated to leave a tip for a poor experience or a specific person (you can exclude people from the gift).
And at the lodge we as a staff have come to an arrangement because what we offer is an experience that depends on multiple people in order for the trip to go well for the guest. It is easiest for the staff if tips are left with the person that is paid for the trip at the end. This person will disperse the tips 75% to the guide and pool the other 25% for the dock and house staff. No, your tip doesn’t go to supplement another guide nor does it go to the lodge manager. It goes to your personal guide so guide portions are not pooled. Just the house/dock. It doesn’t matter what amount you leave, this is how it is handled and this way no-one is forgotten.
Having said this, if someone is mentioned specifically as having done a poor job or done something less than outstanding, problematic even, their portion of the tip may be affected. Sometimes guests want to leave a specific directed amount for the house or for the guide. No problem. This will be taken care of as the guest has requested. But most importantly the guest should feel comfortable with their gift. Never should you feel that you have been held for ransom. Never should a worker come to the idea that they deserve “my tip” or “my portion” without earning it. Earning it means going the extra mile. Everyone is paid already to do the basic job, much as the restaurant employee is paid to answer the phone and run the till.
And never should a guest ever feel the way I felt on the phone with my restaurant employee. It should be the goal to make guests feel comfortable, not uncomfortable, whether at the Lodge or in a restaurant. There really isn’t any difference other than scale. I guess I need to call the restaurant’s manager and explain what happened so that they can either deal with the problem or enlighten me, the client. I hope that my guests will feel comfortable doing so with me. I feel uncomfortable doing so but it is what I would want for the Lodge. The old maxim “If you are happy tell others. If you are unhappy tell us” definitely applies. But be assured we want to hear if you are happy too. We revel in your stories and share them amongst ourselves. We love our guests and love the environment we attempt to create. Our Lodge family is a team who works together to give you the best possible experience. We appreciate you and are grateful you choose to come fishing with us. The tip is nice but the visit is even nicer. Thank you to all our fishing family.
Well folks I got a little bit carried away with this post. I could probably stay up all night and keep writing.
The herbs and flowers in my garden are a personal passion, but in the interest of you all knowing what is in this blog in case you want to skip ahead to the parts that interest you I will summarize them here:
A littlest about the herbs and edible flowers we grow and why we grow them.
A slight head bob to the whole cilantro issue.
Rather detailed discussion on truly effective herb storage.
An easy method for dehydrating herbs.
My nasturtium opus.
A little nod to garlic.
So if the stimulating conversation gets too much but you know there is something coming of interest to you of course skip ahead.
THE HERB GARDEN
To say supplies are limited the lodge wouldn’t be totally accurate, it is just that they are what they are. With grocery runs coming only every 6 days (if we are lucky), if the store doesn’t have something we ordered (it's usually a few somethings) then we have to find another way to make a dish look and taste a little more than what one might make at home on a casual day. One of the things that really makes a huge difference in filling this gap is using fresh herbs.
It does seem that in general in the West we are a bit frightened of using generous amounts of herbs. I see many recipes that state “a 1/4 tsp finely chopped parsley” for example or “a tablespoon of rough chopped cilantro” for another. Personally, I think if you can’t use handfuls of herbs then you aren’t going to notice them, so we don’t really measure but we almost always add a lot more than most recipes allow.
NOTE: Except for Ottolenghi. Now there is a herbal artist. He measures his herbs for recipes in half and full cup measures. We follow his suggestions pretty closely.
Well, just a quick note on the whole cilantro question:
When someone doesn’t like cilantro they really don’t. It isn’t personal preference or some fad diet or just the need to be special. It is real. So maybe poll the table before being liberal with cilantro. In fact, these folks who have been genetically wired to abstain from cilantro can taste even the slightest hint of it in their food so that is one herb to be careful with. Not meaning use sparingly. Certainly not. Use as much as you can get away with but make sure that if you are serving someone else you check with them. In my experience folks either say “I love cilantro” or “I can’t stand cilantro”, there seems to be no middle ground. It usually is one of the last things added so it's easily omitted or subbed out with parsley for those with more challenged tastebuds.
Back to supplies and herbs. Has anyone been subjected to those little plastic packets of a few sprigs of herbs? That really has to be one of the most miserly things to do with those aromatics, and the plants hate it too. They don’t last long that way. We fortunately have a bit of garden space and have been able to grow a fair number of herbal edibles. One of the best things about growing fresh herbs is that, providing you aren’t growing ones from a different climate entirely, they are generally pretty easy keepers. Most have a weedy tendency and grow in great abundance. In fact my oregano is taking over a significant portion of my lodge garden.
Herbs started at the lodge as a curiosity but have become a real essential item for us. The fact that buying fresh herbs is even more spotty and fraught with disappointment than simply leaving the shopping to chance does play a role. Not only are store bought herbs usually old and sprayed, they often are limited in choice as well. And then there’s storage. We just don’t have much room in our fridges for anything more and herbs require a very specific storage routine.
So we grow and use fresh what we can and what we can is; oregano, thyme, lovage, sage, mint, sorrel, rosemary, lavender, tarragon, borage, arugula, parsley, nasturtium (is that an herb…should be), lemon verbena (with some assistance), chives (which we can never grow enough of even with 7 plants in the ground), and fresh basil.
We grow a great number of edible flowers as well including:
Cornflower, mostly blue with a few purples, nasturtium (again), edible chrysanthemums, sunflowers, leeks (overwintered they bloom most magnificently), canola with its beautiful yellow flowers, roses (all roses are apparently edible), borage in blue, pansies in every colour and size, occasionally chives, and of course calendula. The herbs aforementioned also bloom if we let them - occasionally they get away from us and their flowers are wonderful and unique additions to the menu.
In fact we gathered a few clippings when on an October getaway a few years ago of a plant called Hot Lips Sage, which we loved because of the pretty red and white flowers. What a vigorous plant. The clippings grew roots and we successfully planted 3 beautiful plants. Turns out the plant begins flowering in April and goes till the frost. Bees are highly interested in this plant and the flowers are super sweet, not just beautiful. I have used them in Kombucha. If you don’t pick the flowers they fall off and other ones come (don’t have to deadhead in other words). The leaves of the sage are small but savoury and it grows, and grows, and grows and eventually becomes a shrub. Sadly this shrub hates freezing temps so I have little green tents over mine hoping they will survive the cold snap.
I cannot grow cilantro in Quatsino. It is totally my fault to be sure. I don’t think I tend it in the way that it is accustomed so it bolts every time but this provides a nice white flower for the meal.
Some herbs we just cannot grow well or in the quantities we need like cilantro and dill and during certain times of the year, parsley. These we store carefully in our fridge. Did you know that fresh parsley can be stored up to 6 weeks and still be in great shape? Cilantro never lasts more than 2 full weeks. Dill will last 3 weeks easily and if the fridge isn’t opened then a lot longer. No water required. A wonderful Quatsino neighbour, Negrita, taught me this many years ago.
HOW TO STORE HERBS FOR AGES
Step #1. Do not wash the herbs before storage. If they are wet they will rot. Instead, remove elastics, ties, and any off-looking parts of the herb.
Step #2. Lay out a generous portion of paper towel. Place the herbs in a thin layer atop the paper towel.
Step#3. Loosely roll till the whole sample is covered. Tuck in the top and the bottom or gently fold them over creating a loose bundle. Do not tie with anything.
Step #4. Gently, starting with the leafy end of your package, twist into a very clean and very dry glass jar that is large enough to hold your herbs without much jostling. Be sure that a clean and thoroughly dry lid is included. Secure the lid tightly and put into the fridge.
*** Be sure to wash them well before you use them but if you don’t need to wash them for storage then do not. They will last longer if you don’t. Negrita says “wash them in the moment” so that is what we do.
This does NOT work for basil but works fine for parsley, cilantro, tarragon and dill. In fact if you do not have a glass jar or paper towel you can use a dish towel and a plastic ziploc bag.
Hint: When our parsley et. al arrives on grocery day it is most tempting not to deal with it right then as we are invariably in the middle of too many things being a change-over day. But you must. Sometimes herbs come in wet (for some unknown reason, the produce departments of most supermarkets insist on thoroughly soaking the herbs before you buy them), so if this has happened then they cannot be put away as I have just helpfully described. Sigh.
If they are muddy or just plain filthy now there’s another problem. You have to wash them. If they are wet you have to dry them, just not immediately as the only way to dry herbs without bruising them is to let them do it themselves. Time and space are what you need. We lay out a large, clean and dry dishtowel first. If the herbs are grossly dirty, then wash them thoroughly as the dirt will rot them. Sometimes they come in so filthy we fill large bowls of water to dip and swirl them because you can’t wash all the mud off under the tap. Then we shake out as much moisture as we can without damage. Next, the bundle of herbs is broken up and laid out across the dishtowel (usually a couple bundles can be laid out across an entire dishcloth). Cover these herbs with another layer of dishtowel. Repeat the process as many times as necessary. Folks when you order 6 bunches of parsley and 4 bunches of cilantro it can take a bit of space.
Oftentimes, just before the staff are finished cleaning up in the kitchen the herbs are dry and able to be jarred in the manner I already explained. This usually (always) ensures fresh round of green bits on the almost clean floor.
Fortunately most of the time our herbs arrive clean and dry so we can usually skip these extra steps.
LABEL YOUR JARS. It is sure annoying to have to rifle through 4 or more jars that all look the same from the outside to find the herb you are needing because someone was too lazy to write a little taped message. You can date them too if you are trying to use up older ones first. We generally rotate everything; new stuff goes at the back and older stuff to the front. Helpers in the kitchen will almost never check the date so it is just easier to rotate them yourself when the new items arrive.
If herbs are starting to go off you can see by the paper towel some discolouration is occurring. At this point, you can salvage some (provided you take the time to open the jar, get fresh paper towel, separate as needed, wash if necessary) but it's really not worth it. Better to rotate and use up your stock in time instead.
I mentioned basil. It is different entirely. We grow our own, and many of our guests have noticed the barrels of basil we keep. Some years, warmer ones, the basil can live outside for most of the summer. Other years it is too windy, wet or cold and we end up with the basil on the porch under cover or even in the living room. Our kitchen uses so much of this that we sometimes have to give the plants a couple weeks off, during which time we supplement by purchasing fresh basil (if it is available to us).
Basil HATES to be cold or wet. It lives in abject misery in the produce department at our local grocery store. But, if you can get it from a grocer who has it bagged and in a basket away from the crisper and misting devices it will last for several weeks with a little help.
Step #1. Remove elastics and ties.
Step #2. Lay out a generous portion of paper towel and lay the basil in a thin layer atop it.
Step #3. Gently roll it up, carefully folding both ends over to completely cover loosely the basil inside.
Step#4. Use a clean and dry ziploc bag large enough to lay the basil inside. Without bending or squishing, put the basil into the bag and seal with a little air inside. Put on a top shelf in your pantry away from light and cold.
Often we have to order fresh herbs simply because we have an opportunity that someone has volunteered to bring groceries up for us and we have access to fresh herbs. When this happens, we usually still have perfectly good herbs left in the fridge but the old fridge space issue is very pressing when we get a new order in. So we dry our extra herbs. As well the garden produces so much oregano, thyme, rosemary and a few other things that we dry the excess there also.
NOTE: If you don’t harvest your herbs they will go to flower - yes great edible flowers but then the herb itself generally gets old or woody and is usually less desirable for eating.
We have a dehydrator with 12 stacking trays and screens. Easiest to take the herbs straight out of the jar and onto the trays. When they are dry, you can crumble the whole thing into a container with your hands, tossing the stems away the end. Much quicker than chopping in advance and keeps the herbs much fresher. We also save the silica gel packs when we find them at the bottom of something we are working with so we add 2-3 silica gel packs to the dried herbs. The best containers for dried herb storage are those lovely boxes that whiskey of most varieties comes in. They also have a tight lid. They are dark and dry and do not need cleaning. They store well there as there is plenty of space for the herbs not to be crushed inside.
MY NASTURTIUM OPUS - OR IS THAT AN OOPS
I mentioned nasturtium earlier. I googled it. It is a culinary herb. (Big sigh of relief). We use this lovely plant for so many things. The flowers in salads add such varied colour. It is a peculiar observation though that most men are less likely to eat the nasturtiums if they are left whole in the salad... If the petals are plucked and sprinkled about in a mixture of petals it is more likely they will be consumed as they are smaller and stick to the dressing.
We use the leaves inside rolls of sushi to keep the nori rolls drier for longer so as a liner. We decorate the platters of sushi with all sorts of leaves and flowers, nasturtiums being very common for us to use. Most green salads made at the lodge include nasturtium leaves that have been given the chiffonade treatment. As well we take the beautiful long stalks and slice them up like a green onion and sprinkle them over the salad as well. They are very peppery and add something that you won’t find in most salads in my experience. No I have not attempted to dry them yet but I am thinking maybe this year.
Funny nasturtium story: I can never grow enough nasturtiums. Not only are they fabulous to eat they also are a wonderful cover crop and keep down pretty much any weed. Walter didn’t believe me when I claimed confidently (but without actually knowing for sure) that nasturtiums planted thickly enough could eliminate couch grass a.k.a quack grass. Since we had a covid garden this year at home, I was able to take out my gardening frustrations there if not at the lodge. I planted nasturtiums everywhere. It was a rather damp and cool spring for us so most things were held back a bit. The nasturtiums seemed to just come up and then do nothing for a while. So I planted a few more.
I started tucking them with the squash and the beans. I planted them with the sunflowers and corn. When the mice stole my pea shoots, I tucked a few nasturtium seeds in the holes thinking mice won’t eat those and besides, I had so many carrots planted with the peas that the nasturtiums couldn’t do much. I assured Walter that nasturtiums were one plant for one seed (which they are BTW). Then right about when it got warm, we went fishing.
I was quite surprised to see how my garden had grown in my absence as I was able to come home a few times during the summer. I was very pleased to see how my nasturtiums had really begun to grow. I think it was my third trip home when I started logging nasturtiums. With a machete. They took over everything. I know now that the seeds are incredibly vigorous since they all seemed to manage to sprout. They blocked the sun from the carrots, eliminated the cabbages, ran roughshod over my herb garden (yes I have one at home too) blocking light and climbing sunflowers, lying atop calendula and choking out oregano and other various herbs. But they also killed off or at least totally eliminated the couch grass. Underneath the tonnage of nasturtiums was beautiful, cool, black soil. Weed free. So what did I learn?
#1. Used in moderation, nasturtiums are a lovely addition to any garden - I knew this already.
#2. It is possible to grow too many nasturtiums...
#3. There is incredible biomass in a nasturtium plant. They are heavy.
#4. They are a dominant force to be reckoned with, much like the Triffids and/or the Tribbles.
#5. They definitely are an organic method to control couch grass and pretty much any other garden plant, weed or wanted.
#6. They do provide excellent protection from sun beating down and rain pounding the soil structure and they continue provide this service in death throughout the winter.
#7. They produce zillions of seeds all season long, far too many to attempt to clean out of the soil which I now know are incredibly vigorous and will all be back this spring.
I am sticking my original statement that there’s only one seed per plant and they can be pulled. I know this to be true because although I had thousands of nasturtiums and therefore seeds in my garden in 2019, because of the covid issues this spring I was not at the lodge as much as normal. I assigned Breanna, a.k.a Breez, to do some weeding expressly targeting canola, grass, and the devil plant called Himalayan Orchid. Now while I did not specifically show Breez what a nasturtium was, there were obviously hundreds of thousands coming up all over the place. As many of you know, Breez is efficient. Clearly no garden plant should coming up like this ergo this must be a weed heretofore unmentioned and she went after it with the same enthusiasm she applies to any task. By the time I arrived at the lodge there were 3 nasturtiums left on the property. Teehee. We just didn’t have quite as many in 2020 as normal.
A quick detour back to the edible flowers for which’s much of our garden grows. Just between you and me and the gatepost, if I had the time I would just be gardening all the time and I would focus on the herbs and edible flowers. Well the important part to mention just now is that they do not store well. This is likely why they are not easily purchased in most supermarkets. In fact, few farm stands offer them as well. They are best used within an hour of picking making them rather poor prospect for farm sales. You might see them in restaurants and often this is because the chef grows his/her own. They can be candied and in some cases dried. I dried a good deal of calendula and rose petals and buds in the summer, both of which I use in my kombucha brewing. Borage flowers can be candied but they wilt quickly so all the ingredients need to be ready before picking.
I guess garlic isn’t exactly an herb but it sure feels like one. It pains me to confess this but when I first started cooking at the lodge I bought my crushed garlic in a jar from Costco. I progressed to buying fresh garlic only and burning through many a garlic press/crusher. I have always made it a policy that if the recipe calls for 2 cloves of garlic I would at minimum double it. Those cloves are soooo small. Then I discovered farm grown local garlic and never looked back. 1 clove is easily 2 and often the same as 3 of those little white cloves. I never want store-bought garlic again. Walter planted several hundred cloves of garlic this fall so cross your fingers. I suspect that I personally, at home, use at least 1 head of garlic everyday and often more so it is easily one of the top 5 most used things in my home and work kitchen.
Well point of fact - we didn’t. Or rather we did but it was painful. It all started close to 20 years ago (on a dark and stormy night, walking 7 miles up hill both ways in the snow….) You see we had a group of Malaysian folks for three days. They wanted very much to have a fresh caught rockfish prepared in their traditional way. There was somewhat of a language barrier though to put it mildly.
So on day 1 Jarrah, our intrepid chef (yes folks, before Blondy or Breanna there were real chefs), followed exactly what he heard the guests request. This was: steam the rockfish, pour hot oil over it, top with grated ginger, green onion and serve. And so he did. I cannot recollect how he steamed it but apparently there was a problem. You see there were scales on the fish and they were blasted all over the meat. I think possibly there was another issue (hint: the toppings) which we will cover later of course, but Jarrah heard them about the scales. And so he endeavoured on day 2 to re-attempt the process.
The penultimate evening was about begin. Rather than skin the fish, which was probably what the folks wanted but again, the language barrier was significant, Jarrah scaled the fish, steamed it skin side down, covered with boiling oil when ready, and then topped with soy sauce, ginger and green onion.
This time it wasn’t scaley thank goodness. (Is scaley a word? Spellcheck doesn’t think so). The problem was that, before the hot oil, you soak the meat in soy sauce, top with grated ginger and green onion, then pour hot oil over the whole mess thereby cooking the ginger, green onion and saltiness of the soy into the meat. Poor Jarrah. He was a master of his trade and he was feeling a little peaqued…peaked…dang no help from spellcheck this time. Annoyed then. Frustrated. Challenged. But there was one more evening and the guests were determined, as was Jarrah.
So the ultimate evening arrived. In a fit of crazy creativity Jarrah skinned the fish - probably sick of attempting to remove scales that were superglued onto the body. Gotta say skinning the fish is a lot faster than scaling…
He lovingly prepared the fish sides in his steaming contraption (really don’t remember what that was) prepared his hot oil to sizzling smoking perfection, soaked the steamed flesh in a good bath of soy sauce topped the fish with copious amounts of green onion and ginger, and blasted the flavours into the meat with lots of hot oil. Served and voila. The guests were enamoured - enraptured - totally blown away. Either their expectations were so low that anything would have been acceptable on their last night or they recognized the Herculean task they had given poor Jarrah, with the total lack of language in common and of course no internet to google up the answers….
And that is, in a nutshell, how we came to have our recipe.
To tell the truth I do not remember the quantities of green onion, ginger or soy that Jarrah initially used but I do know how much we now use and we have moved to a more Quatsino version of this recipe in the process. This is known as well because we have a lovely guest named Don whose family owned and operated for many years, a Chinese Restaurant. He was quite familiar with the concept of our recipe but Don was mortified to see how much ginger, green onion, soy sauce and oil we slather on our fish flesh. Apparently to really taste the fish you need hardly any of that stuff - just a hint. However, we North American folk have “climatized” the intention to suit our own need for flavour and we continue in this way to this day excessively coating our fish with these items.
We have attempted this recipe with halibut, ling cod and rock fish over the years and it works with everything. Haven’t tried it with tuna or salmon yet folks...anyone out there game? Let us know. So that is the story of Quatsino Rockfish as we remember it, and the recipe is here if you want to try it at home for yourself.
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.