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Fish on the Beach

Last night was the start of the Hebrew month of Av.  With the nine day countdown to Tisha B’Av, we put aside all thoughts of chickens, cows and lambs and turn to the sea, literally…

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Roughing It

A five star tent -- one common room, two bedrooms, but no kitchen!

This post was written on Thursday evening, 12 August, scribbled in the dusk…

I really have had an underpriviledged childhood.  Tonight will be the first night ever that I will sleep in a tent. Shy-Boy cannot believe that I have lived to the ripe old age of mumble mumble without ever having experienced the sublime nirvana that is tent dwelling.

You see, yonks ago when I went camping, we didn’t have tents.  We slumbered in sleeping bags under the trees, in the rain, on desert sands, by the seashore, always under the open sky.  We didn’t have a need for tents, we were roughing it.  We cooked over open fires, letting the chicken pieces fall into the mud, the ash, the dirt, and using the Three Second Rule, just tossing the food back on the fire.  It was delicious!

Ju-Boy and Shy-Boy go camping each summer, leaving me behind in the blissful air-conditioning, watching reruns of House or Doctor Who in wonderful solitude.  Tonight I have joined them, because, I have been told, I cannot go through life without roughing it at least once in a tent.

The boys work hard while Miriyummy documents the process

You should have heard me earlier today making fun of the Love of My Life and his youngest progeny.  They set up a tent with two bedrooms opening out of a central entranceway.  We have blow-up mattresses!  We have a portable barbeque!  I have brought my BlackBerry to check emails!  Shy-Boy is playing games on Ju-Boy’s iPhone while Ju-Boy grills entrecote steaks and is making a salad.  No dirt encrusted chicken for the likes of us!

Gourmet roughing it

With all of this luxury, we are still roughing it.  We are the poor neighbors at this campground.  The family two tents away have brought a television and home cinema.  Another family has brought a generator and a huge chest freezer.  The teens a few meters away are bopping along to Middle Eastern disco on a huge sound system complete with strobe lights.  People are cooking spaghetti on electric hobs.  A little further away I can see a state-of-the-art plasma television, hooked up to a karaoke machine!  You wouldn’t want to go camping and miss out on who gets eliminated from Kochav Nolad (Israeli Idol).

One family shlepped out a huge television and spent the whole night screening their sons' Bar Mitzvah videos, complete with belly dancers and ulalations!

Huge chest freezer connected to its own generator -- are they camping out or moving in?

Teen camp with sound system and strobe lights -- they actually turned out to be the quietest group that sleepless night...

Okay, it’s getting dark and as we have neglected to bring a sound and light show with us, scribbling all this down is getting more and more difficult.  I suppose I could tap this all into my BlackBerry, but, hey, I’m roughing it!

One confession — tonight we’re going to be treated to the Perseids meteor shower, and Shy-Boy has brought his telescope.  There is definitely something to be said about smoothing out the rough edges.

Tent city the morning after

Shy-Boy made us smoked tuna sandwiches for breakfast!

Smoked Tuna

  • 1 can tuna packed in oil (not water!)
  • 1 paper towel
  • 1 match

Smoking the tuna will take about 10 minutes until the flames die down

  1. Open the can of tuna, but do not drain the oil.  Fold a paper towel into 4 and place on top of the can, pressing down into the oil.  Turn and do likewise with the other side, so that the entire paper towel is saturated in tuna oil.  Place the can on a flame-proof surface.  Strike the match and ignite the paper towel.  Stand back and watch.  Take pictures if this is the first time you are doing this and your friends won’t believe what you had for breakfast that morning. 
  2. Let the flames die down of their own accord.  This can take anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes depending on the oil in the can.  In the meantime, you can prepare a roll with cheese, scallions, whatever you like in your tuna sandwich.  No mayo is necessary.
  3. Once the flames have died down, the tuna will be nice and smokey.  There really is no need for draining now, all the oil has been burned away, leaving behind a wonderful barbequey flavor.  Enjoy!

Not exactly gourmet, but who needs gourmet when you're roughing it? Delicious!

A Fishy Story in Two Parts

Sassy and Sabraman

Thumbelina, Thumbelina, tiny little thing
Thumbelina dance, Thumbelina sing,
Thumbelina, what’s the difference if you’re very small?
When your heart is full of love, you’re nine feet tall!

featured in the biographical movie Hans Christian Anderson (1952)

Once upon a time there was a little girl.  A very little girl.  When she was born, even though she was full term, she weighed so little that they kept her in the preemie ward.  I’d like to say that she grew, but she didn’t.  Well, she did, but slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y!  By the time she was two years old the local Tipat Chalav (well baby clinic) was threatening to call a social worker and charge me with abuse because they thought I wasn’t feeding her.  When she was three years old our family doctor became concerned because she wasn’t really gaining any weight.  By the time she was four she was the size of a two and a half year old.  Tiny little thing.  I didn’t even need a stroller for her, I would just carry her around in my pocket.

We actually had a wonderful family doctor, who suspected that she might have a growth hormone deficiency (she did).  The winter she was four he sent us off to get a bone age x-ray taken, and then on to an endocrinologist.  The x-ray clinic was in the same neighborhood as Machaneh Yehuda, Jerusalem’s outdoor market.  It was early in the morning and as we got off the bus I thought it would be fun to walk through the market just as it was waking up for the day.  Man plans, God laughs.

I held Sassy’s hand as we walked through the market.  At one point we passed a fish stall.  The vendor stuck this huge net into a pool of live fish, scooped up a few, and tossed them on to a stall of ice, the freshest fish of the day.  One of the fish did not take too kindly to being removed from his pleasant bath and tossed on to a freezing tableau, and literally leaped (do fish leap?) off the ice and straight on to Sassy.  I don’t know what kind of fish it was, but it was HUGE, bigger than my little girl for sure.  It hit her full on, and knocked her over on to the cobblestones.  To add insult to injury, it lay there on top of her, floundering around, rubbing it’s fishiness all over my tiny baby.  She lay on the ground screaming, the fish lay on her, flopping, and I was in so much shock I just watched it all happen in slow motion.  Mr. Fish Vendor came out of his shop and removed the insulted fish, hurling it back on the ice.  And my Sassy, she just screamed and screamed and screamed.  Tiny she was, but she had the lung capacity of an opera diva.

Since then, if she knew there was fish on her plate, she never ate it again.

Fast-forward 19 years.  Sassy has just become engaged to her superhero, Sabraman.  It was time for The Dinner.  You know, the two sets of parents get together and strategize about the wedding.  Sabraman is half Yemenite, half Turkish.  Did I cook a meal that was familiar to his parents (something they see on their table everyday)?  Or do I showcase my own ethnic background (Hungarian/Lithuanian)?  I came up with a third solution.  Sabraman, in spite of his boureka-eating, hilbeh-dipping, meaty upbringing, had a thing for lasagne.  So I’d make him lasagne.  But I thought that would be too outre for his parents, so I made some fish as well.  Yes, I know Sassy was going to have a fishy fit at the table, but she behaved herself well, since she’s a fan of my lasagne.

Hungarian/Thai Salmon, bizarre fusion food at its best

So there we sat around the table, the six of us:  Mr. and Mrs. Sabraman, the future Mr. and Mrs. Sabraman, and me with my Ju-boy.  I proudly served dinner:  lasagne, a green salad, a chilled bottle of white wine, and my fishy creation — Hungarian/Thai Salmon.  The elder Sabraman couple just sat there and stared.  What is this stuff?  Is she going to poison us with her Ashkenazi food?  It was a tense two minutes or so.  Sassy was trying not to stare at the fish, Sabraman was dying to dig in to the lasagne but was waiting for his father to help himself first.  Finally, in the awkward, cricket-chirping silence, Sabraman stands up, serves his parents and then his bride-to-be and says in his superhero voice, “It’s good, eat!”  And eat they did, they even had seconds.  That night, Sabraman was also my hero.

Before I post the recipe, just a tiny post-script:  Sabraman and Sassy are now living in London, and when I spoke to my daughter last week she said to me, “Here’s an update for your blog, I eat tuna now!”  I know this is Sabraman’s doing, he’s my superhero too!

I originally posted the recipe on Recipezaar back in 2001, but it’s undergone a change or two since then.  Below is as I make it now.

Hungarian/Thai Salmon

  • 1 (3 lb)  salmon fillet
  • 1/4 cup Hungarian paprika
  • 1 large lemon, washed and dried
  • salt and pepper to taste

While the salmon is still partially frozen, cut into serving pieces.  I usually serve this as an appetizer so the pieces are smallish squares.

Place the salmon in a large pot and cover with water.

Toss in the paprika.

Zest the lemon with a Microplane zester and toss the zest into the pot.  Cut up the balded lemon into approximately 6 slices and toss that into the pot as well.  Add the salt and pepper.

Bring the whole thing to a rolling boil and let cook for 20 minutes.  Yes, I know you are supposed to gently poach salmon, but listen to Miriyummy.  Don’t treat the fish delicately, it can take it, don’t worry.

Turn off the heat, let sit for about 10 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon.

Chill for at least two hours and serve.

Hungarian/Thai Salmon -- perhaps this is next on Sassy's menu?

Sassy at a restaurant in London, even her hamburgers are tiny!

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