Summer has arrived at my house with the first contingent of friends and relatives up to fish Alaska’s rivers and streams. In this case, it was two young cousins and four of their friends – in all, six young men in their mid twenties who kept me laughing and shaking my head in wonder for four days.
When they took over an hour to cook steaks that were still raw in the middle despite catching fire, I found myself hoping they’d end up with good and patient women who will see the bright interior under the strange exterior. Otherwise, those women may not view the sight of these young men running through the kitchen towards the deck while blowing frantically on blazing slabs of meat with quite the sentimental eyes that I did.
But I should start at the beginning. Despite having over three months to prepare for this trip, the young man in charge of transportation for the group – and wouldn’t you know it, one of the two related to me – had somehow come down on the side of renting a Camry to transport the six of them and their gear to fish camp.
Once it became evident even to them that this was untenable, the entire first morning of their four days in Alaska was spent trying to figure out the cheapest way to rent a vehicle that would suffice for their needs. They eventually came up with one but since I’m still not sure it was an entirely legal venture, I’ll not go into the details here.
Then we had to figure out fishing licenses and boxes to transport their catch home. My two cousins had fished in Alaska last year and apparently did not want to face the sarcasm of their family as the actual cost of the fish – including airfare and shipping – was totaled up during dinner. So this year, all the young men came with only carry on luggage and planned to use their two checked bags to ship their fish home. This would apparently bring the actual cost of each salmon steak down to something closer to $50/pound as opposed to $75.
So off we went to Wal Mart in what I can only describe as the kind of group outing last seen during the inmates’ bus trip in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Some of us looked for boxes to transport the fish. Others filled up the licensing counter while looking for ID they may or may not have remembered to bring. The one married member of the group wandered around the store with a toy moose in his hand telling everyone who would listen that it would make a great gift for his wife.
By the time all chores were accomplished, it was too late to go out to dinner. So we ate at home. The guys told me they wanted to cook it as my treat for being so patient. Heck, patience had nothing to do with it. I hadn’t laughed this much since my last outing to the Fly By Night Club.
And that’s how we ended up in the kitchen with the steaks on fire. One of the guys insisted that the best way to cook the steaks was not on the grill – that was for hot dogs and hamburgers only – but very slowly in a frying pan. I don’t know why I listened to him. An hour later, the outsides of the steaks were slightly tan and the insides were still raw. It was now 11:30 PM. I suggested that we put them under the broiler for those who wanted them slightly more done than steak tartar.
And it would have worked, too, had we not been laughing so much we forget they were there until the stove started sounding an alarm and the smoke was pouring out of the oven.
When they returned from the river, they had only caught five salmon among them. So the cost per salmon steak was probably up to $100/lb. But it didn’t matter because they’d also caught Alaska fever. I could see it in their eyes as they spoke of seeing moose and eagles and bears on the river.
I think they’ll be back and I’ll be happy to welcome them again – so long as they understand that I’m in charge of the steaks.