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The Joys of Seafood Chowder

Posted by bob on Mar 4, 2012in Tall Tales With Jack


I am amazed at the situations the “Big Guy” constantly gets us into as we crisscross North America. For a moment, close your eyes and open your olfactory sensors and imagine you can smell the fragrance of a fresh caldron of seafood chowder slowly cooking on an old wood stove.

You sneak up to the huge pot, grab a pot holder and raise the lid a smidgen as you cradle your nose between the lid and the edge of the simmering brew. You inhale and hold your breath. Your mouth begins to water and you want to reach into the bubbling concoction with the ladle laying motionless on the counter top, but your mother had taught good manners, so you wait.

Just think of the anticipation we had as we headed up a seldom used logging road secure in the knowledge that our two gallon Tupperware bowl was nestled securely in the closed microwave oven a top the stove in the rocking motor home.

I couldn’t wait for dinner, and neither could the BIG GUY and his friend, a former professional player, Greg Steel, who was traveling with us. “As soon as we get to the end of the road up near the Nipisiquit Falls, we’ll pull in and set up for the night and feast on that bowl of chowder,” said the BIG GUY.

I can usually count on him to get us into and then out of situations, but this time he outguessed himself. Thankfully we were not moving fast up this bear track as I watched the road narrow and the tree limbs slapping our windshield and grazing the vents atop the roof. Old reliable was rocking and rolling from east to west and back again. I began to tremble, which is a trait we Chihuahuas have, but this time my premonition was correct. I lumped from the passenger’s seat next to Rusty and onto the floor and headed for the shelter and overhanging cove of the bed.

No sooner had I curled up in my fetal ball that we hit a deeper than usual rut in the road and lurched violently to one side away from the micro wave. Suddenly the door of the radio wave oven flew open followed by a flying container of homemade seafood chowder.

It looked like a difficult billiard shot involving three or four combinations of hits as it bounced off one wall across the space between the stove and clothes closet, then off the door of the seat cushion above my head and onto the floor of the still moving motor home coming to rest on its side, lid off and contents decorating ex-very square of most of the unit.

I let out a howl of fear and the BIG GUY just turned the interior of the motor home blue as he slammed on the brakes throwing the three of us into a self defensive mode so we wouldn’t break a limb as we stopped with a rude jolt forward.

 

So now you know how the tale of the seafood chowder almost ended. Now, let me tell you the rest of the story

 

Janet Brine is a talented Acadian miss with a culinary genius. When it comes to the kitchen she is without equal! Janet’s culinary genius was handed down from mothers to daughters since the arrival of North America’s first European settlers, the Acadians, in 1604.

Last summer, the Big Guy and I headed for our home fishing port, Petit Cap (Little Cap), New Brunswick. It was our annual week of lobster fishing with our buddies in this quaint corner of the world. We never miss opening day, the anticipation, hundreds of families and tourists lining the wharf for the traditional pre-dawn, send-off, the magnificent sun rise, laying the first string of traps, and at day’s end pulling one of the 75 pound nets to see if our established goals for the season will be realized.

 

Along on this trip was one of the Big Guy’s former professional hockey players, Greg “Rusty” Steel. Rusty was one of the first players sent to Kalamazoo, Michigan, by the parent Detroit Red Wings, in 1974. Kalamazoo was the newest brain child of Detroit Red Wings owner Bruce Norris and the Big Guy had been given the challenge of building it literally from the ground up. Kalamazoo was to become the newest member of the age old International Hockey League and Greg was one of the first players Detroit assigned to it for development.

 

Rusty and his former coach had remained close over the years and had experienced significant trauma in their respective lives that had kept them close. Rusty had just gone through a tragic event in his life and was on the road with the Big Guy to get away from it all and to clear his mind and spirit of the agony he had just experienced.

 

After a week of fishing and exposing Greg to the life of a helper on a lobster boat we were rewarded with a surprise gift from Captain Kevin, his brother Richard and their sister Janet--a large pot of homemade, Atlantic Ocean seafood chowder. This pot of gold brought drool to the corners of your mouth the minute your nose connected with the fragrance emitted from beneath the lid. Janet understandably didn’t provide her secret recipe when asked, and a gentleman never asks twice.

All we knew was the pot contained every freshly caught specimen of fish living in the Northumberland Strait, between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island--lobster, scallops, three different types of clams, halibut, succulent rock crab, Atlantic salmon, oysters, home grown new potatoes, sweet corn, fresh cream from the local farmer and an array of spices that only Janet understood.

 

Unfortunately, the sun was setting, the day’s catch had been logged in with the buyer and we were destined to head to the Nipisquit River four hours north before the stars came out. The Big Guy believes he has a quality called “infinite wisdom,” a quality we all who know him understand to be a figment of his imagination. Who in their right mind, obviously he was using his left brain, would believe that a full pot of fluid sitting atop a swaying motor home would stay put for four hours over the less than accommodating roads?

Rusty dosed for most of the four hours trying to recover from his week as a novice crewmember on a lobster boat where the backbreaking work of fishermen had caught up to him. I sat motionless on my bed between the two front seats, eyes fixed upon the microwave oven where the pot of seafood gold had been stowed.

We hit the cutoff point on N.B. Hwy 8 and made a hard left turn onto a Micmac Indian reservation, headed up a hill along the river then around a bend, crossed a rickety old wooden bridge and onto the narrow tree lined dirt road once used by logging trucks. The Motor Home swayed but the microwave oven door remained closed.

Rusty was unmoved by the rocking and rolling of the unit and blessed us with a crescendo of loud stuttering snoring sounds that would awaken the dead in a nearby cemetery if the windows had been open.

The Big Guy was singing aloud, out of tune, a traditional Acadian folk song, insisting he was as qualified as the artist on the radio…not!

We finally reached our destination, the Pabineau Falls on the Nipisquit River where I had understood we would park for the night. We all needed a break and a good night’s sleep so that when dawn broke over the falls we could lie face down over the lip of the rushing water and watch the salmon jump from swirling whirlpools over top of the eight foot high wall of cascading water.

What I believe and what actually happens with this crew are strictly illusions in my mind; there is no logic within this cargo ship.

Unfortunately, the small parking area was filled with romance and the stench of beer. Rusty awoke and was rewarded for his sleep preventing efforts with a trip to the lip of the rushing falls to check if the salmon were running and jumping. It was spawning season and the fish were destined to reach the breeding grounds, come death or high water.

I, on the other hand, meandered here and there sniffing out every exhilarating aroma I could find on every stone and bush within a 100 feet. Ah, the aromas of marking…I love it! It’s always a treat to relieve myself over the scent of others before me.

No sooner was I comfortable and looking forward to cuddling next to the Big Guy under the comforter and his enormous heat producing body when he climbed back into the driver’s seat, fired-up the engine and headed up the rutty, narrowing road into the night.

/span>OMG, (Oh my God) I said to myself! What is this guy trying to do? Where does he think he’s headed at this time of day? He cannot see the hand before his face even with his bright lights on and he’s hitting all these ruts at an incredible speed. I later overheard him say he was only going 5 mph, but it sure seemed faster than that in the creaking motor home.

And then it happened…an open oven door, a pot of chowder in the air and voila. The rest cannot be printed. Suffice to say the air turned blue and Rusty was ecstatic. I opened my eyes from beneath the overhanging pull bed and heard Rusty holler, “STOP, STOP!” And stop we did. Rusty threw open the passenger side door and recoiled to the main compartment door and pulled it open even before the Motor home had come to a complete stop.

/span>I watched in amazement as the burly Moose Jaw resident scooped up handful after handful of the scattered chowder. Nice job I thought. What a joy having Rusty along; this mess will be cleaned-up in no time. However, I am not always correct with my assumptions. As the Big Guy muttered inflammatory adjectives or verbs, Rusty began eating the reclaimed spoils. “What the hell do you think you’re doing,” shouted the Big Guy in disbelief. I must admit I was wondering the same thing.

“Are you kidding,” he shouted back, “Do you think I’m going to let any of this go to waste?” he said with his typical dry humor. “I’ve been dreaming about this meal all the way here and don’t have any intentions of not indulging in Janice’s chowder,” he continued. “Besides, a little dirt, sand and gravel mixed in won’t hurt me.”

OMG, is he serious I wondered? I wasn’t about to wait for my brain to respond to my self-proclaimed rhetorical question so I made a mad dash for the best and juiciest morsels of fish I could find. For an instant I thought I’d have to bite Rusty’s hand to keep him away from my chosen parcels, but we intuitively knew who would get what, and how.

I always knew hockey players were animals, but now it was confirmed. The two guys I was riding with were something else….completely nuts! But the chowder was good.

We still had a long way to go--1500 more miles and we’d be home. We also had a few more stops along the way, another week on the road. Do you know what sour cream and seafood chowder smells like after a week buried in a rug and unseasonably hot days?

Six months later after three detailing jobs and two intense attempts by Rusty to shampoo the interior when we finally made it home had not removed the odor of Janice’s homemade seafood chowder.

Hopefully, by next spring when we hit the road again, the chowder smell will be gone and the Big Guy will have learned a lesson on stowing vulnerable liquid food stuffs before heading a rut road in the bush.

It never ceases to amaze me!

I look forward to the spring and being on the road again.

 


Bob Belliveau-Ferrin Lemieux
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