There’s something comforting to me about the rain, although after this weekends storm even I am tired of the dark skies. Perhaps it has to do with growing up on the east coast of Canada, or maybe it’s just part of my soul. I’ve lived in the state of Washington twice during my lifetime, in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle, and in Longview, a lumber mill town on the Washington/Oregon border. Rain in Washington is like pornography on the Internet, more often than not you’ll find it. From what I’ve heard, although don’t nail me to a board on this, Washington state has one of the highest suicide rates in the continental U.S. because of the weather. I loved it there. When the sun deigned to shine, the Puget Sound would come alive like a pop-up greeting card, as though every sailboat owner hoisted their sails in unison before the sun once again ducked behind the clouds.
It was difficult for those living there at that time. Lockheed was going through mammoth layoffs and the economic pinch was impacting most of the inhabitants. Signs advertising “free stereos” and “no deposits” were posted by landlords trying to entice tenants to move into their half empty apartment complexes, and it rained and rained and rained some more. Noah would have been sighted often at the lumber yard often during those days. On that stay I brought with me my young family. When I boarded the plane from Southern California for Seattle my son was just six weeks old and my daughter just a month past her first birthday. Their dad had taken a job offer in Bellevue in my sixth month of pregnancy. I had an obstetrician in place and it wasn’t a good time to move my growing body so he went on ahead of us to find us an apartment and start his new job. My mother and my step-father offered my daughter and I their spare room until the baby was born.
In spite of the precipitation, I found the area surrounding Seattle as well as the city itself had much to offer. Weather permitting, we took many day trips on the weekends. The “underground city” of Seattle is truly worth your time if you’re there on a visit. An entire city essentially buried beneath the thriving metropolis above. I took the tour and found myself stepping back into an eerie moment of frozen history.
Bainbridge Island was a half hour ferry trip from Seattle. From the back of the ferry the Seattle skyline was highlighted across the sky and in front the bow of the boat rose and fell as it cut through the white-capped blue waters. The island itself was populated with lovely homes, many sporting docks housing the owner’s boats. The downtown area was bustling with touristy shops lurking behind colorful gingerbread facades as well as a surprising variety of intimate restaurants. Our favorite place to eat sat at the top of an old dock with a large outdoor eating area. One of their specialties was stuffed baked potatoes with a variety of seafood fillings that were out of this world. Gulls hovered close by perched on rotting timbers or strutting on the boards below waiting to grab a piece of bread or potato skin left by departing diners. On the weekends local jazz performers filled the cozy inside dining room with music that I could have listened to for hours, and often did. I would have moved there in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for the fact that most of the lovely homes with their panoramic ocean views were far and away out of reach of the bottom line numbers reflected in our checkbook.
Our only social contacts in the beginning were my husband’s coworkers, as I had my hands full with an infant and a toddler at home. My mother suggested we contact a friend of hers and her husband who owned an oyster farm on one of the outlying islands. After a brief conversation with them, we were invited, and readily agreed, to come out for a weekend visit. The gentleman of the house picked us up at the dock in a fishing boat, their only transportation to and from the mainland, and we sped across the waves to the island. Their house sat up on a rock strewn hill, and was circled with decks on all sides. With more windows than lumber used in its construction it provided a picture perfect display of the water surrounding it as you moved from room to room. Our hostess was a gifted cook so we ate well, drank some fine wine from their extensive collection in the cellar, and generally enjoyed their company and the accommodations to the fullest. Apparently, oyster farming can be quite a lucrative endeavor if you know what you’re doing, which I had not one single idea what that would be. Fortunately, our host was most knowledgeable and kindly gave us an informational tour discussing the rearing and harvesting of the oysters along with a brief visit to the farm itself. This was the best part of the trip for me.
After six months and just starting to get settled my husband’s company began issuing layoff slips with one with his name on it. Packing up once again, we headed to Northern California. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Washington many times since, both on business as well as pleasure, and lived there one again in the early 1990’s as I mentioned in Longview. Always, it’s been a great place to be.
Spicy Shrimp Stuffed Potatoes
4 large baking potatoes, cleaned and scrubbed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium green or red pepper, or a mix, seeded and chopped fine
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 lb. small shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with garlic salt. Pierce with fork. Bake for 1 hour or until well cooked. Turn off oven and leave potatoes inside while preparing the shrimp.
In large skillet melt butter over low heat. Add celery, onions, green pepper and garlic and cook until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato sauce and seasonings. Heat for 5 mins. Remove potatoes from oven. Gently roll between a clean dish towel. Cut an “x” in the top of each and push in ends to open potato. Add shrimp to sauce mix and cook turning frequently until they turn pink (about 3 mins.). Do not overcook, or shrimp will be tough. Remove from heat. Add Tabasco to taste.
Divide sauce between potatoes. Serves 4.