One of my favourite Lopez traditions I've been introduced to is smelting.
No, not the metal smelting.
It's the term we use to refer to pulling in the net that is used to catch smelt, a rad little fish that tastes delicious.
Randy is the ringleader of the operation. It's his boat and his net and he sort of sets the dates and makes things happen. He conveniently is also a fisherman who's skilled at giving directions and making everyone feel like they've got a part in pulling the nets in. He never makes anyone feel awful and, thus, we all have a fantastic time.
For the process, he takes the net out, we wait for about an hour, and then we all pull the net in, sorting through the many, many fish and finding just the smelt to take out. The nets become full of prickle backs and stickle backs and crabs of all sizes and herring and a bunch of others that I can't name off the top of my head. One of my favourite creatures of the Salish Sea is the Pleurobrachia bachei - the Sea Gooseberry or Gooseberry Jellyfish. They look like little clear balls of gooseberry jelly-ness. So cute!
The first time I went with Davis and Hannah.
The second time, I went on my own.
This time, a woman, named Liz, brought out her wok-y thing and propane stove and cooked the smelt up with capers and dried-tomatoes. One of the finest feasts!
The third time I went was a complete accident.
Joelle and I were about ready to eat dinner so I asked her if she wanted to cook at home or go to the beach to make supper. She chose the beach and I decided to take her to the place where we had been smelting weeks before. I had heard that the last pull of the year had already occurred so I wasn't counting on seeing folks.
But, as we pulled down the small dirt lane, there they all were! This time, it seemed to be just a lot of fishermen. Joelle and I pulled out our dinner-gear, set up, and were pretty delighted. Joelle thrives on animal fat. She loves it and craves it. Now, she got as much as she wanted or could eat, straight out of the sea. Raw fish eggs and guts, if she wanted.
We first cooked up our meal (mushrooms, onions, parsley, and carrots with a side of kale, broccoli, mustard, Swiss chard, and parsley) and then went to help pull in the next. If I had known that we were smelting, this evening, I would've brought my Xtratufs - as it was, my Converse from '08 would have to do.
After the first pull, I gutted and cleaned some fish and we started to cook them up in butter. We didn't make quite as many as Liz, but were still able to share. I wish I had come prepared to feed more folks. I did feel honoured, though, that at least we could make some fish for the folks to enjoy.
So good! Life is so, so good!