I caught my very first fish! And let me tell you, farm to table is one thing, lake to plate is a whole ‘nother. First, there’s the spot-finding. Stuart and I drove all around searching for the fishes. We tried on a very very full river, where we caught a lot of branches (above and below water) and one pathetically tiny fish (that I was irrationally excited about) then decided to move to a lake, home of Stuart’s childhood lucky fish-catching log, where after much bush-wacking we indeed had more luck.

Kind of. For a solid few hours we stood on the lucky log, fishless, fiddling with poles and lures and bobbers and lures and worms. Also known as, I stood around enjoying my long-missed and beloved sun for a couple hours while Stuart fiddled with poles and lures and bobbers and lures and worms. Sometimes it’s really nice to be a girl and get to be a little bit of a wimp. (This will become even more important later.) We had many trials and tribulations, stolen worms and lost bobbers, but at long last, fortified by english muffins and avocados and equipped with MacGyver-d poles, I CAUGHT A FISH. Such excitement I have never known! All gear problems and impending boredom are instantly forgotten in the extraordinary thrill of that fishy little tug from the depths. I immediately understood all those old men camped out on docks for hours. Because once you start reeling, start this life-or-death tug-of-war with that shiny little trout, it’s the battle of a lifetime. And when his shimmering little body flings from the water, twisting like a mad thing, there is nothing you want more than to dominate that creature.

Net forgotten, we caught him in a plastic bag, this once lunch sack now home to to a living thing fighting for life. And here’s me, killing it. It’s a weird feeling to kill something. Especially to kill something…you’re going to eat. Back on sturdier land, off the mossy log, we pulled the first catch out of the bag and looked at ’em, both giddy with our success. I had no idea what came next, I sort of imagined that you just caught it and that was it, your work was done. Not so. First a solid whack to the head, then retrieval of the hook. (Not done by me, thankfully not within realm of girl duties.) Even though he died for it, Monsieur Fish does not get to keep the hook. Instead, Stuart held open his creepy little mouth and pried it from his gills, a procedure that produced a lot of blood. I think my eyes were wider than they ever have been and I think I mumbled “oh, I didn’t really know fish had blood…”

But I got over my hint of squeamishness and fish-thirst set in. Once you’ve got one, you want more. A lot more. Four sizable trout later (two me, two S, although he most definitely did 75% of the work for all of mine…I am neither a very talented caster or a very steady reller-in-er…I get too excited.) Then homeward, for the gory part. Bellies open, guts out. Surprisingly more fascinating than gross. Although I excused myself to dig their guts’ graves after a couple of these operations to ensure that I would still eat the little guys. (And, I have to admit, I think the bloody fish gutting photos are really oddly lovely.)

THEN, the cooking! Here’s where I’m finally useful. I basically stuffed them with butter and fried them in butter. Can’t go wrong with butter. They’re such tender little guys, their spines and ribcages just peeling away from the barely pink meat when they’re done.

Eaten with asparagus and roast potatoes and a lot of pride in a very cozy cabin. From lake to log to lakeside to cooler to fish operating room to pan to plate. If it was that much work for everything we eat, we’d think about food in a very different way. (And …we’d be a pre-modern society.) The first time I ever cooked something I caught, the first time I ever ate something I killed. Pretty thrilling, pretty tasty.

(And backwoods-style lox n’ bagels the next morning, trout n’ english muffins.)

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