... or, A Tale of Two Fish...
A couple winters back, during a particularly tight week between paychecks, I found myself counting pennies and combing my cupboards while I tried to plan out meals that would require the least amount of grocery shopping. For some reason, I fixated my frustrations on a lonely can of pink salmon.
Fancier than regular old tuna, it wasn't something I'd thought to buy myself. Likely it was one of the many things my Mom had slipped into the bags of random canned goods, grandma's apples, and frozen Thanksgiving left-overs lovingly bestowed upon me at the end of every visit home. (She might not be able to save the world, but, by God, she could feed me!)
I also had a handful of raw oats, and at least one egg. So I figured that, if nothing else, I could make salmon patties. I could, at least, make salmon patties. Or maybe some sort of salmon salad, with the last of the mayo.
From that point on, the salmon became a beacon; a shining symbol of dinner possibilities. Things might be hard, but as long as I had that can of salmon, I knew I would eat well.
I've never really been a fan of ramen-by-necessity. And something in my stubborn-assed nature seems to delight in making me loose my appetite almost to the point of gagging whenever I try to eat something my brain tells me is perfectly okay food, that my stomach says it doesn't want. Ask me sometime about the texture of eggs.
And for some reason, I was never hungry for the salmon. I kept pulling it from the shelf and putting it back, finding something, anything else to eat. Maybe it was because of how I had symbolized the salmon, I was afraid that eating it meant I would have hit some sort of rock bottom.
Things got better after a while, and I eventually forgot about the precious can of salmon.
Fast forward to last New Year's Eve. I must have been staring into the cupboard again, deliberating what to make for dinner... seeing what looked tastiest that day.
I reached in once again and pulled out the can of salmon. It had been sitting there in the back for a while, and I figured I'd better use it up. You know, before it went bad, or something.
So I made some salmon patties. And they were darn tasty. And then I did something else. I went out and bought another can of salmon. And I put that can in the back of the cupboard, and left it there until New Year's.
Because I wanted another symbol. I wanted more holiday things to look forward to, little rituals that were my own, adult, celebrations that had their own meanings. So many of the little things my family did, as a family, had fallen by the wayside for one reason or another.
Instead, I am building up a little home of my own, with little celebrations of my own.
So tonight, I bought a new can of salmon, and I pulled the old can from the back of the cupboard. I pulled a few more things out of my cupboard and my refrigerator and I made fancy salmon croquettes with remoulade and sauteed kale and heated up some spiced cider.
And damn if I didn't eat good this year.