Friday, June 15, 2007


“Keep it simple, stupid.”

That’s a saying that’s often used in Alcoholics Anonymous but there’s a lot of truth to it.

When I was in the monastery, every summer about five of us would spend a week at this lovely mountain home near Crested Butte, Colorado that one of the (wealthy) benefactors would let us use.

It was a beautiful place: A four-bedroom, split level modern log cabin with huge bay windows that sat next to a mountain stream surrounded by the mountains; a veritable slice of heaven-on-earth.

Each year, I would be the cook for the trip. I love to cook and, besides, it got me out of having to go on these god-forsaken mountain hikes that the others seemed to enjoy.

I loathe the outdoors, by the way. Heat, bugs, unconditioned air.

You can have it.

So, nothing was more pleasing to me than to spend afternoons by myself in this beautiful kitchen, puttering away and making tasty meals.

Brother Paul was about my age and loved to go fly-fishing. He wasn't very successful at it, but he enjoyed it. One afternoon, he actually caught quite a few rainbow trout and presented a satchel full of them to me in hopes that they could be turned into a meal.

Did I know how to clean fish? Paul wanted to know.

My mom and grandfather were avid anglers and hunters. I refused to fish (it's outdoors you know) or shoot a gun so, subsequently, I grew up cleaning fish. Lots of fish. Also quails, doves and the occasional rabbit.

Fresh rainbow trout? Some of which were still alive?

Let me at ‘em!

Paul was watching as I wielded the knife like a letter opener, fish guts tumbling out. He feigned sickness, hand over his mouth, and exited.

A short while later, there were rainbow trout broiling in the oven with just a kiss of lemon and butter.

Let me tell you, there is nothing in this whole world quite like eating rainbow trout that fresh. As each person took a first bite, there were looks of utter astonishment on each of their faces, including mine. Even a fish-hater would have been weeping tears of ecstasy over these morsels.

It would have been a crime to make a fancy French sauce to use on these fish or, heaven forbid, to batter and fry them, fish-n-chips style.

There have been meals where I’ve busted my butt, making fancy ‘this’ or impressive ‘that’ and, more often than not, with disastrous results.

When you have quality, real quality, it's best to keep it simple.


At 3:12 PM , Blogger Lorraine said...

Remind me to tell you about the time I gutted smelt.

I didn't know they were supposed to be fried whole.

At 5:13 AM , Blogger Jon said...

Lorraine: "Smelts" = The gay recreational swim team in Chicago (isn't that cute?)

"Smelt" = the baby herring that you fry whole as an appetizer; the original 'small fry'.

I'd love to hear about the time you tried to gut them. Really.

At 6:30 AM , Blogger MICKY said...

A recent copy of Reader's Digest has a couple of articles on Alcoholics Anonymous. The crux of the articles is that the famous 12 Steps, don't work at all. Apparently, there's no data to support the claim that Alcoholics Anonymous is successful at getting people to stop drinking. From my own experience, the 12 Steps, shut down the critical thinking section of ones brain. What do you think? Comments are welcome!!


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