I’ve had the pleasure of taking up residence in Washington state on two occasions. The first when my children were babies, in Bellevue, a bedroom community in the suburbs of Seattle, and the second after they’d moved out on their own, in Longview, a lumber mill town just north of the Oregon border.
Washington, if you can manage the abundant rainfall, is one of the most beautiful states I’ve lived in, most likely due to the abundance of rainfall. Lush forested areas, long stretches of beaches, picturesque natural lakes, coastal islands to explore, and Seattle itself, which offers up fine restaurants, and water sports on the Puget Sound. All provide an excellent quality of life for its inhabitants.
Longview was an interesting city. The perpetual smell of sulfite rising from the lumber mills was at first off-putting but as days passed, like working in a dairy farm I would presume, you find yourself getting used to it. I have driven across Kansas many times in my travels and experienced first hand the wealth of ammonia rich air thrown off by the many dairy farms in the state. Given the choice, I believe I would always opt for the lumber mill over the manure, although the manure is probably more organically sound.
Finding ourselves in Longview for a short-term construction job, our expectation on arrival (my ex and myself) was to be in town anywhere from six months to a year. In the end, we split the difference, arriving in late spring and leaving before the first bud popped out the following year.
Both of us had jobs at a local mill that consumed most of our free time. Knowing our stay would not be permanent, we chose to rent a suite, or so the owner’s referred to them, (in this case suite would be used in its loosest translation without bordering on the absurd), at a local motel catering to construction folk such as ourselves.
On weekends in Longview we would often launch a boat on a nearby lake, cast a line in the lingering cool of early morning, perhaps hike the myriad of available trails in the mountains, or take a day trip to the coast for fresh seafood and oyster shots.
The first time I dropped a line in the water in Washington, was in Silver Lake located beneath the destruction of Mt. St. Helens. Evidence of the devastation was still evident. It was early on a Sunday morning. Renting an aluminum boat, we hovered in the reeded areas where fish such as crappie and bass would most likely be hiding to avoid catching a hook. Looking back, I find fishing really is a solitary experience, even though you share it with those in the boat, and the boats around you. Hushed conversations, the sounds of a thermos releasing air and coffee being poured, or a line skimming across the water are common, but it is not really a place for your magpie conversationalist or someone who needs the comfort of constant stimulation. We caught our quota of fish that first day. Fish we didn’t consume that night were frozen for later use.
Fall came in with a rush that year, blanketing the hilltops with color. An early snow, according to those there long enough to keep a record, followed just before Thanksgiving. That year we were to work the day before the holiday, having the actual day off and the one following, then back to work on Saturday. A tight schedule at best. My family was in the San Jose area in California and were missing us, as we were missing them, but to make the trip with those constraints would have been difficult.
Our suite, if you will, had no kitchen facilities but in the time we’d lived there I’d procured three double burner hot plates, which regularly shut down the electricity on our side of the motel, and moved in a full size refrigerator. Dishes, unfortunately, were still done in the small sink in the corner. I cooked some great dinners on those hot plates, with our “motel family” showing up regularly with plates and silverware to share a meal.
My husband, at the time, was from Texas. Growing up hunting and fishing with his grandfather and serving in the military, he was not uncomfortable with guns. A bumper sticker behind the gun rack on his old Ford pickup read, “Honk again, I’m reloading”. For myself, the only time I ever held a gun and attempted to learn how to shoot it I nearly obliterated the wall in our kitchen. Instinctively, I knew that in a self-defense situation I would be more likely to accidentally put the dog down then bring harm to an intruder.
As we were unable to share a table with our family that year in Washington, it was decided that we would gather our motel friends together who were also stuck in town. Those who were interested in participating were to each bring a dish their family enjoyed and the turkey was to be cooked in the oven in the owner’s apartment, as they were joining us as well.
Wild turkey was on the menu, or it was up to the men to put it there. From the stories I’d heard about the brain power of their domestic counterparts it didn’t seem to me there would be much sportsmanship involved in hunting these big birds. It was explained that wild turkey’s are far more intelligent, and infinitely faster than their farm raised cousins, and very wily in a field situation. Unfortunately, one was just a little less speedy than the trigger finger of one of the hunters so a bird was delivered to the butcher around the corner for plucking and cleaning.
It was not as large a bird as I was used to, but it browned up beautifully in the oven and smelled fabulous and in the end tasted delicious. The taste is different from one you’d buy in the market, but in a good way. Fish were defrosted and fried in cornmeal, and sampling the different flavors and tastes from everyone’s contributions made it special.
Family is a big word that extends beyond your blood types. I wanted to take a moment to extend a happy and healthy holiday to all of you who have stopped by over the last two years and signed up to read my stories. I hope that everyone has a great turkey day.
This recipe is a quick last-minute addition to your table, and, if left alone, I might sit in the closet and eat them all myself. Have a great day!
Cheesy Gourgeres (French biscuits)
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/1 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, green portion only
2 garlic cloves, minced
Bring water, butter and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Add flour all a once and stir until it forms a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 mins.
Off heat beat in 4 eggs, one at a time blending thoughorly after each addition. Continue mixing until mixture is smooth and has a shiny texture. Add cheese, green onions, and garlic. Mix well.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Drop mixture on well greased cookie sheets by tablespoons. Sprinkle with reserved salt. Cook for 20-25 mins. until golden brown.