Lots of wakes visible on the lake today as well as quite a few sails leaning in the breeze. Nice to see people back on the water after the long siege of wet weather here in Northern California. Makes me miss our boat in some ways, but not enough to wish to have it again. For me, the best way to enjoy boat ownership is to have the dock right at or close to your residence. When it’s a drive away, it tends to take the spontaneity out of it and you come up with reasons not to take it out. For us, it was more the case that running the restaurant was time-consuming so when we had down time we didn’t really want to go through the mechanics of parking, cleaning the boat, packing a lunch, and finally going out on the lake. Today would be a great day to do just that, however, and I wish I could.
For four years when my children were in middle school and entering their first years of high school we had a cabin in Bass Lake, California. At the time it was a sleepy little mountain community tucked in the Sierra foothills about a half hour ride down to the Yosemite floor. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of visiting Yosemite, I must tell you that you have seriously missed a spectacular experience. Unfortunately, during the summer months the hordes of tourists make it more difficult to enjoy the peace and beauty you will find there with the magnificent stone faces of the cliffs and the ethereal waterfalls, but, no matter what it’s worth it for the experience.
Bass Lake was our haven during those years. A place to drop your line over the deck on a sizzling afternoon, put your feet up, and catch a ray or two from under your well-worn straw hat. It’s a man-made lake, as many in California are. At the time we were frequenting its shores, the early 1980’s, it was still a well hidden secret that only the locals and some outsiders enjoyed and kept close to their vests. On Memorial Day, the bikers would roll in just as the sun dipped below the mountains. It was always a sight to see with their headlights making a light show that Disney would be impressed with along the south shore of the lake.
Our cabin slept ten comfortably and twenty when comfort wasn’t an issue. Often we had our friends, the children’s friends, and people who simply enjoyed being friends with people who had a cabin and a boat, but really it didn’t matter, for the most part it was always fun. With no TV, no video games, no cell phones, the evenings were interrupted by an occasional whoop from one of the kids diving into the water off the dock, or the gentle buzzing of curious insects, but mostly it was just glorious quiet, a board game or poker game, and the seemingly endless panorama of stars present in the dark skies overhead.
It was an easier time, back then, not necessarily simpler, life is never really just simple, or not in my experience, but easier somehow. Up at the lake our children shared meals with us and their days. Conversations were animated and lively and filled with details of rafting off the dam, water skiing, and what movie was playing at the small theater in town known best for having a tree growing through its roof.
After the obvious endless opportunities for activities that the lake provided, meals were a time to come together and cook. Sometimes we fried or barbecued the “catch of the day” a bass or crappie, or fat juicy burgers bulging with onions and seasonings, and even occasionally we threw a little shrimp on the barbie or a lobster tail or two. A lot of my time was spent in that sunny kitchen looking out of the window with the “herb curtains” onto the lake. It was a good time, a time I remember sometimes when I allow myself to travel back instead of forward, which isn’t often.
Perhaps with all that’s going in the world we sometimes push the small moments aside to allow all the big moments to overtake them, but I can’t help but believe that those small moments shape us in some way.
This is one of my favorite recipes for cooking a freshly caught bass. Give it a try to let me know if you enjoyed it.
Cajun Baked Bass
1 4-5 lb. bass
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 stick butter
2 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup green onions, sliced thin white and green
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Generous dash of hot sauce, depending on preference
Rub fish with salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Place in a large resealable bag and refrigerate overnight.
In medium skillet, melt butter. Add onions and bell pepper and cook until onions are translucent. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and cook uncovered over medium heat for for 45-50 mins. Add 2 cups of cold water and remaining seasonings. Cook an additional 30 mins. over medium heat. Add wine and cook for an additional 3 mins.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place fish in greased cooking dish. Pour onion/tomato mixture over fish. Cook for 40 mins. basting three times during cooking time.