The food of my people was fried, gravied, stewed and jelloed. Don’t get me wrong. I liked it all, especially deep fried halibut.
Our house was old and cold when I was four. Arthritic metal radiators clanked and groaned trying to generate enough heat to overpower the damp produced from the incessant rain of coastal northern British Columbia. When the gurgle and clunk in the radiator pipes signaled that heat was a-comin’, I’d climb onto its corrugated surface and warm my butt and calves.
I abandoned my heated roost when Mom fired up the deep fryer and turned on the oven in preparation for making fish and fries. The kitchen became an oasis of heat. The windows steamed over and the whole house was enveloped in the scent of French fries – which my dad called chips – and the heavy, glad tang of fish.
There was nothing better than the smell of fresh filleted and battered halibut sizzling in fat. It glistened in the draining basket until most of the grease had dripped away and then a piece was laid on my plate along with hot fries and a big puddle of ketchup. Was there a vegetable? I don’t remember. Who would bother with pallid canned peas when laid in front of you was a perfect piece of fish. The batter crunched under my fork, the fish flaked hot in my gob and I’d open my mouth wide against all the rules of etiquette sucking in cool air, soothing my burnt, happy tongue. Oh my god – scrumptious.