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How to Make Good Baked Salmon from the River

It's best made in dry-fish camp
on a beach by a fish stream
on sticks over an open fire,
or during fishing
or during cannery season.

In this case, we'll make it in the city,
baked in an electric oven on a black fry pan.


Bar-b-q sticks of alder wood.
In this case the oven will do.
Salmon: River salmon,
current super market cost
$6.95 a pound.
In this case, salmon poached from river.
Seal oil or hooligan oil.
In this case, butter or Wesson oil,
if available.


To butcher, split head up the jaw. Cut through.
Remove gills. Split from throat down the belly.
But, but make sure you toss all to the seagulls
and the ravens, because they're your kin,
and make sure you speak to them
while you're feeding them.
Then split down along the back bone
and through the skin.
Enjoy how nice it looks when it's split.

Push stake through flesh and skin
like pushing a needle through cloth,
so that it hangs on stakes
while cooking over fire made from alder wood.

Then sit around and watch the slime on the salmon
begin to dry out. Notice how red the flesh is,
and how silvery the skin looks.
Watch and listen
how the grease crackles, and smell its delicious
aroma drifting around on a breeze.

Mash some fresh berries to go along for dessert.
Pour seal oil in with a little water. Set aside.
In this case, put the poached salmon in a fry pan.
Smell how good it smells while it's cooking,
because it's soooooooooooo important.

Cut up an onion. Put in a small dish. Notice
how nice this smells too,
and how good it will taste.
Cook a pot of rice to go along with salmon.
Find some soy sauce to put on rice,
or maybe borrow some.

In this case, think about how nice the berries
would have been after the salmon,
but open a can
of fruit cocktail instead.

Then go out by the cool stream
and get some skunk cabbage,
because it's biodegradable,
to serve the salmon from.
Before you take back the skunk cabbage,
you can make a cup out of one
to drink from the cool stream.

In this case, plastic forks,
paper plates and cups will do,
and drink cool water from the faucet.


After smelling smoke and fish and watching
the cooking, smelling the skunk cabbage
and the berries mixed with seal oil,
when the salmon is done,
put salmon on stakes on the skunk cabbage
and pour some seal oil over it
and watch the oil run
into the nice cooked flakey flesh
which has now turned pink.

Shoo mosquitoes off the salmon,
and shoo the ravens away,
but don't insult them, because mosquitoes
are known to be the ashes of the cannibal giant,
and Raven is known to take off
with just about anything.

In this case, dish out on paper plates
from fry pan. Serve to all relatives and friends
you have invited to the bar-b-q
and those who love it.

And think how good it is
that we have good spirits
that still bring salmon and oil.


Everyone knows that you can eat
just about every part of the salmon,
so I don't have to tell you
that you start from the head,
because it's everyone's favorite.
You take it apart,
bone by bone,
but be sure you don't miss
the eyes,
the cheeks,
the nose,
and the very best part--
the jawbone.

You start on the mandible
with a glottalized alveolar fricative action
as expressed in the Tlingit verb als'oos'.

Chew on the tasty, crispy skins
before you start on the bones.
How delicious.

Then you start on the body
by sucking on the fins
with the same action.
Include the crispy skins,
and then the meat with grease oozing all over it.

Have some cool water from the stream
with the salmon.

In this case,
water from the faucet will do.
Enjoy how the water tastes sweeter with salmon.

When done, toss the bones to the ravens
and seagulls, and mosquitoes,
but don't throw them in the salmon stream
because the salmon have spirits
and don't like to see the remains
of their kin thrown in by us
among them in the stream.

In this case, put bones in plastic bag
to put in dumpster.

Now settle back to a story telling session
while someone feeds the fire.

In this case,
small talk and jokes with friends will do
while you drink beer.
If you shouldn't drink beer,
tea or coffee will do nicely.

Gunalche'esh for coming to my bar-b-q.

~ Nora Marks Dauenhauer -Tlingit



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 4th, 2005 09:38 pm (UTC)
This is beautiful, thank you for sharing. It reminds me of a conversation I had with my late paternal grandmother [Big Mamma]. She would make these HUGE breakfasts in the morning, eggs and cheese, sausage, hot links, fried baloney, grits, toast, biscuits... They were always so good. After she told me the story of how they used to smoke their own hams and raise their own chickens (and a goat to butcher in summer and serve up as camp stew at the Fourth of July) the breakfasts tasted even better. Knowing how close she and my grandfather (and my dad and his siblings) used to be be to the land and to the rythms of nature imbuded her cooking with some kind of magic. I wonder how much different things would have been for her if instead of moving to town and trading the smokehouse and outhouse for a refrigerator and indoor plumbing, they stayed on the farm and grew their own food. Could she have avoided the morbid obesity that led to the diabetes that led to the gangrene that she finally succumbed to? Would her children have fared better, avoiding the alcoholism and depression?

Hmmm. Thanks again for this. It gave me a lot to think about.
May. 4th, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC)
It is very interesting to note the change in diets of people who suffer oppression in this country. The shift in diet is very much a tool of genocide, in my opinion.

Traditions and rituals with food are so crucial to all cultures and the Westernization of how to prepare food has and continues to harm groups of peoples.

Thanks for sharing your impressions and your family memories with me :)
I appreciate it.
Sep. 12th, 2006 04:04 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that I came window shopping in your journal. I loved this.

There are so many sensory details that we miss out on we don't collect, prepare, and enjoy the food ourselves. The change of color and scent from preparation to table, the way elements join together like the fish and the oil to create a whole, the complete experience of gathering the fish and then dealing with its remains. Cooking and eating are both experiences deeper than what we regularly experience. I think it's one of the better examples of stopping to smell the daisies, enjoying the experience as a whole from expectant hunger to contented dish-washing. I never feel better than when I get everything myself and prepare it all. I imagine that has some anti "'Not I," said the fly" in it.
Sep. 17th, 2006 10:02 pm (UTC)
I am glad you liked this poem.
It's one of my favorites for all of the reasons you mentioned above.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )