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Wednesday, 25 July 2012 17:28

Life’s a Fish and Then You Fry

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Life’s a Fish and Then You Fryby Randy Bayliss

 

Alaska Northwest Books, Second Edition

(First Edition self-published 1999 as Fear and Poaching: Eating Southeast Alaska)

ISBN 978-0882405537208 pages, 100 recipes, 60 illustrations $16.95

 life-is-a-fish

For your consideration: a cookbook by a man who consults on hazardous waste cleanups in the state whose seafood he recommends for use in most recipes.

Bayliss begins the first section of the book by discussing the health benefits of eating seafood. He follows through by encouraging the reader to eat seafood and provides quite a few good recipes. The book has more than 200 recipes for all manners of dishes featuring wild pacific salmon, halibut, crab, mussels, and squid. The recipes are simple and straightforward. Most follow the rubric: when you have excellent ingredients let them shine in the dish. He includes dishes that are from Mexican, Asian, Native Alaskan, Scandinavian, French, Italian and other cuisines.

Although the author emphasizes the health benefits of seafood and olive oil, he suggests storing garlic cloves in olive oil. Bayliss writes, "Since most olive oil recipes also call for garlic, store peeled garlic cloves in olive oil. The oil picks up the flavor of garlic and garlic cloves store well, ready for other uses." He also advises readers not to refrigerate olive oil. These appear to be very odd practices to include in a book which so emphasizes health.

Why does it seem odd? In 1989 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urged consumers to discard garlic-in-oil and similar products. Firms were told to stop making any such mixes which require refrigeration for safety. http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/NEW00120.html

Health Canada has written, " Garlic in oil is a popular home prepared food item which can present a health risk, if stored incorrectly. Improper storage of food products is a frequent cause of food poisoning in Canada. These illnesses can range from relatively mild discomfort such as cramps or upset stomach, to life threatening. One of the most serious risks is that of botulism. Non-preserved garlic in oil (that is, containing no preservatives) is a food that is known to present such an extreme risk and must therefore be handled properly… Non-preserved garlic in oil products are mixtures of vegetable oil and whole, chopped or minced garlic. For safety these products must be continuously refrigerated, from the time of preparation, and should be used within one week." http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/food-aliment/mh-dm/iyh-avs/e_garlic_in_oil.htm The Calaveras County California Extension Service has a wealth of information about garlic handling and storage at http://cecalaveras.ucdavis.edu/garlic.htm

Bayliss’s suggestion of storing garlic in olive oil astounded me. This book is hard to figure on food safety issues. The author makes his garlic suggestion and a similar one about storing basil leaves in olive oil. On the other hand, he tells us how important it is to avoid harvesting mussels in tidal areas affected by red tide algae. Does he really think that more people will be getting their mussels at the shore than at the market? Why include this warning?

On another strange issue, he is at pains to let us know "don’t eat bait quality herring." Thanks, Bayliss, but I do not do any shopping for my table at the bait shop. Oh, and did I mention the kelp foraging advice complete with illustrations to help us recognize good Alaskan kelp on the beach?

All in all, this book is strange. Perhaps, I am just not "in on" the idea or joke that is essential to understanding it. Sare these oddities the one part Hunter S. Thompson in the book as the cover notes suggest? May be the book is just intended for Alaskans. I’m from Chicago and live in California. Thanks be to God.

 

--Reviewer Mike Petersen is an attorney employed at the state capitol who travels whenever he can to try new foods and wines in California and Europe. He especially enjoys cooking and eating Italian, Spanish, French, German and other dishes that he has sampled with the locals here and abroad. Mike is a founder and chair of Mr. P’s Wine Club, a no-load wine club whose members love trying new wines and foods. He also searches for Chicago-style, kosher hot dogs wherever he may be.