26 April 2013

Always Something to Eat (Canned Salmon Blues Redemption)

The clock continued its viscous slog towards quitting time, while I perched my achy parts on a stool behind the counter. Throbbing pain in my side slugged it out with the rumble in my belly. This made it hard to concentrate. I was having trouble thinking past the next five minutes, much less the next 45. I was hungry, dammit. Dinner was out there on the horizon. I had no idea what to do. So I winged it, as I often do.

Temptation had reared its head earlier in the afternoon. I kept musing on a packet of spice blend I had in the freezer, a take on the Indian curry meme rogan josh. Traditionally used to stew lamb, the blend has been on my mind for about two weeks now. Mostly since I had the surgery and was either too laid out or too lazy to actually cook something. Today it seemed particularly insistent. One small problem: I had no lamb in the fridge. I also had no desire to go get some. No desire to go grocery shopping after work for anything, for that matter.

I was not sure I even had enough vegetables to make something out of whatever else might be squirrled away in the cabinets

Take-out or dining out also whispered to me from the shadows, a siren call that these days I find it terribly difficult to resist. Tired, lazy and sore is no way to approach cooking a dinner for one's self. It makes it too easy to give in to temptation. Also, these days, I cannot afford much temptation. Still, there was this issue of an empty belly and with what to fill it.

So it was that I left work for the night with no plan, no real clue as to what to do. I was so tired that all I wanted was to go home. Without a plan I resolved myself to a dinner alone (my usual companions being otherwise engaged), comprised of a sandwich and whatever chips I could scrounge out of the pantry. While I am very much a sandwich man, there are times where they pall on the tongue, and the stomach (if not the soul) rebels at the thought of another. damn. sandwich.

A funny and sub-miraculous thing happened on the drive home. It all started with an onion. Specifically, the onions in the basket on my kitchen counter. I realized I had two, and suddenly things looked more promising.

One of the things I told myself when I was a bachelor was: always have onions. If you have onions, you can do something. I paired that with the idea that I would always have a unit or two of canned fish in the pantry. If you have that, you will always have something to eat. Always. I recalled there was angel hair pasta in the cabinet as well. And a few pepperoncini, along with a dormant jar of olives, some bell peppers. Then a little flash went off in my head: there was small wedge of blue cheese in the fridge, too.

Hot damn, this was starting to sound like a plan. The kicker was yet to come, though.

As I stepped through the door I had this amazing moment of illumination. It came back to me, then. There was a can of salmon in the cabinet. A can that I had purchased back East, prior to my move to the Midwest. I grinned.

Hunger made me humble and grateful. I had something to eat. Always.

So it was that I pulled that can of salmon from the cabinet, wondering and grateful. That can had sat in my old larder for some time. It was banked away, that insurance I would always have something to eat. I counted myself lucky I never had to open it before. But that was a different time. This was now. That can had made the trip with me, and now would serve as dinner for the night.

This made me happy beyond reason.

I laid out the ingredients in front of me. Pasta. Bell peppers, one red and one green. Pepperoncini. Olives. A nosegay of parsley on the verge of having no purpose. That lovely looking, if somewhat odoriferous, blue cheese. The crowning touch was that humble canned salmon. I set to, and ginned up something to eat. Better yet, something I wanted to eat.

Ladies and gents, I do not know what to call the result. It was sort of a salad, sort of a pasta course. I simmered the peppers with the pasta and some herbs, then drained it all and tossed the mix in a bowl with olive oil, wine vinegar, fresh ground black pepper, more dried herbs and some crushed red pepper. Then I mixed in the parsley, a scattering of olives olives, crumbles of blue cheese, and that salmon. A dusting of fresh black pepper speckled the top. Having come this far, I resolved to wait a bit to let the heated pasta absorb the liquid while softening the cheese.

It was not pretty. It lacked elegance. It probably would have drawn little notice from the universe of rock-star chefs and blingy food. But I will tell you this: it was exactly what my achy body and empty tummy needed to feel human again. I even ate part of it, being alone, right out of the mixing bowl while standing at the butcher block island in the kitchen.

"The onions, what about the onions?" I hear you say. Well, I decided somewhere along the line that I did not want the onions, although I am sure they would have made a worthy addition to the dish. The onions were merely a catalyst, a link to the salmon I ended up eating.

But you see, now I still have onions...and that means I can do something when I am hungry.


  1. I enjoyed your post today. I concur about onions. I used my last bit of onion last night. Also I keep garlic on hand. Garlic and onions, seared in olive oil can spice up almost any canned good for a quick solitary meal. Now, I need canned salmon!

    1. With garlic and onions, there is no stopping us! First, the kitchen, then the world!


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