Fishing for Protein

When I graduated from undergraduate studies, I'd made a plan with a very good friend from high school to travel abroad in Europe. I'd saved and planned for four years for the trip. Upon graduating, with a plane ticket in hand along with a Eurorail pass, maps (we used real maps back then), and backpacks we were off from Alaska to New York to the UK where we'd start our three week eight country adventure. Under achievers. No problem. We'd start and end in the UK, and make a loop staying in hostels and B&B's on the way. We'd planned every detail, even our two big meal splurges in France and Italy. Denise spoke some German and I spoke some French. Most of the rest of the countries were Latin-based so we figured we'd be alright.

The UK was charming, we were mostly mesmerized by the history, the old churches, and the accents, not the food. After a couple of days we left on a large boat and crossed the English Channel to France. The only thing I can recall about the trip was hanging out on the deck because I didn't want to puke in the room. I also remembered the several alarms going off and red light flashing on the deck. Somehow that is imprinted even though I can't remember anything else about the boat trip.

We arrived in France and made our way to Paris where we stayed in a very quaint hotel. I remember the first day setting out to see the sights: museums, Notre Dame, and the different neighborhoods. It was all very exciting. We mostly ate small meals consisting of bread and cheese, cafe latte, fresh fruits and vegetables, all so we could have a four course meal at a nice restaurant to experience real french cuisine. We found a restaurant that catered to my vegetarian needs. At this moment I have to honestly say that I can't remember a thing about that meal, except that it was a very french experience. It was slow and almost loitering, pleasant, slow food.

We continued to Nice and to Cannes where we were the most under dressed tourists ever. We didn't mind.

We continued our travels through Spain, Switzerland and then down to Italy. Oh, my love Italy. We traveled to Pisa, Florence, Venice and Rome. By this time my travel mate and I probably had lost about seven or so pounds from eating lightly and hauling big back packs to and from train stations and lodgings. However, it was in Italy that we discovered Gelato. Gelato that was so fresh, rich, creamy and flavorful that we began having it for breakfast and lunch, waiting with the other new converts for the Gelato cafe to open. Shamelessly.

In Florence, where there were also several Gelato joints, we had our next big splurge of a meal. And this one I remember.

I was ready to be underwhelmed with flavor based on our experience in France. Plus I am not a pasta lover, even to this day. There were not a wide array of vegetarian choices, or at least there wasn't back then. We'd picked a small restaurant, dark with lots of red velvet in the interior. It was not tacky, just decadent feeling for a hippie type. I'd selected an entree pasta with what they called Bechamel sauce. The fresh vegetable soup and salad were good, and impressive. They were seasoned with fresh herbs and some flavors that I hadn't experienced before, or at least the combinations. But the pasta. My God! It took all I had to not lick the bowl. This too was slow food and a slow lingering meal.

By the time we left Florence we both had gained ten pounds.

We continued our travels and somehow made our way through some parts of Germany, seeing as many castles as one could possible see in four days. We traveled to Munich through the nude parks during the lunch hours, and through the streets of musicians and pubs.

We hadn't panned to go to Portugal, but somehow we had become competitive with ourselves and thought why not? It was at the end of our trip and we could squeeze just one more in. So we headed to Portugal for a two day excursion, not too worried about the language or a place to stay. It was rough. We were green young women who landed in a the port city of Lisbon. We were offered hash, cat called, and had a hard time figuring out the new map of Lisbon we'd just purchased, didn't quite know what to eat and we were having a hard time communicating in Portuguese. We began bickering, but realized this wasn't the place to 'take some alone time'. On the night of the second day we wandered into a non descript restaurant along the water. It appeared to be a local place with brown butcher paper on a linoleum covered table. Many of the men looked like fishermen, in clothing that looked the part.

Denise and I examined the menu and could not make heads nor tail of it. We attempted to communicate in some kind of broken French-German-English language but it was a failure. Finally, the waiter suggested a menu item. Exasperated and hungry we agreed to the item. A fire seemed to light in his eyes when we agreed and we mistook it for his relief at having us finally make a decision.

We relaxed, though we were aware of an increase and glances and gleeful looks aimed in our direction. Maybe 20 to 25 minutes the customers broke out in a loud cheer as our waiter came out of the kitchen door with a very large platter. I looked at Denise and she me. He was coming towards us. He cleared the condiments from the center of the table and placed what looked like a hunk of the coastline on the butcher paper. It had muscles covered by barnacles, snails, clams bedded on seaweed, and an assortment of other sea things all topped by two sparklers -- the kind you find at the fourth of July in the states. Denise and I again threw each other a glance and reached for our purses to count out the money we had between us. We may have been punked, or we may have been kindly introduced to a Portuguese coastal delicacy, but either way it was going to cost us. There was no way of telling them to take it back, we'd changed our mind for a beer, cheese and bread. We scraped up the funds, which also meant our budget was blown for days and we'd be surviving on bread, fruit and coffee the next days (That ten pounds of weight gained in Florence dropped fairly quickly after that). Yes, I was a vegetarian, but I paid for this meal and as they say 'when in Portugal do as the Portugeuse do'. I remember mostly being curious about the taste and texture of barnacles. They were rubbery and tasted somewhat sweet and like the sea. I realize that these regional foods were integral to who the people were, so familiar with every aspect and comforting were the foods, these contributed to an optimal health of folks there.

The Pacific Northwest coastline is pretty immense and there are many foods from the sea and sound that indigenous people used to eat. The Duwamish, Samish, Snomomish, are some of the indigenous caretakers of these lands who continue to guide, and lead environmental and spiritual protection of these lands and water. And whom have ethically fished the waters for salmon and other cold water fish that are great sources of protein. As we discussed in another blog protein is essential during cancer treatment for a variety of reasons including tissue repair, immune support, blood sugar regulation, mood stabilization, and maintenance of proper metabolism.

Wild caught salmon is a particularly ideal protein because it is a lean source of protein containing good fats including omega 3 fatty acids, as well as Vitamin D3, and Vitamin B12. A serving of salmon has about 18 to 20 grams of protein and is easily to digest. I would highly recommend wild caught salmon as opposed to farm raised fish which have less omega 3 fatty acids and can be harmful to the environment if there is an accidental release.

Salmon can be prepared in a number of ways. Many folks will grill or broil salmon. You can also use canned salmon for salmon patties or salmon salad. Salmon cooked in coconut milk and spices can be used as a soup, in case swallowing due to radiation treatment is an issue.

A favorite recipe of mine of mine is Chili Paste Salmon (Cooking through Cancer Treatment to Recovery; Demos Health Publishing, 2015). It is very easy to make and all the ingredients including the chili paste and fennel, excluding the coconut milk are regional. This recipe is delicious. I'll post in the recipe section in the next few days.