Protecting Bristol Bay: Smart Money

A little op-ed piece I wrote for the Patagonia blog:


President Obama’s recent protection of Bristol Bay from oil and gas exploration may feel like a victory for fish and the environment, but I think it’s really about time and money. Which in this case, is just as good. Here’s why:

Oil and gas reserves, as we know, are limited by however much is already in the ground and our ability to extract it. Sure, advancing extraction technologies (fracking, etc) can extend the life of a deposit, but unless we’re waiting for more dinosaurs to die, nobody’s making any new oil or gas.

Salmon, on the other hand, if properly managed, are perhaps the ultimate renewable resource. By all accounts, the Bristol Bay salmon industry is one of the best managed fisheries in the world, producing a sustainable $2 billion annual fish economy…

Read the rest on The Cleanest Line.

How About Cooked?

DadSmokedSilverAfter all that raw product I put up last week, here’s some pix of the pre-Christmas meal we cooked up with my Dad. He loves all kinds of wild food, so I packed the raw ingredients in a little cooler for our flight, then we put together a kind of Northwest surf-n-turf dinner. Appetizer above is a chunk of alder-smoked Willapa Bay coho from September.


Perhaps the best part of cooking and eating wild food is the stories and people that come to mind with each ingredient. That coho makes me think of the day Sweeney and I caught it, and how we limited by early afternoon and didn’t know what to do with ourselves for the rest of the day. The razor clams, here fried in a crisp, panko breading, bring back all the fun the kids and I had on the beach with the Sweeneys a few weeks ago.


The elk backstrap pictured here, marinated in olive oil, garlic and rosemary, then pan seared, reminds me of our good friend Kate Taylor (she’s the source) and all that went into her Montana elk hunt.


Finally, put it all together and it’s more than a great meal; it’s a plate full of stories and thoughts of friends, places and times. Delicious.



Finally found the time to deal with the tree that took out our power and internet a couple weeks ago, which meant, time to put the kids to work. Of course, it had to be hemlock (crazy heavy when wet, not many BTUs when dry), but we’ll take it. And considering it was right in our front yard, which alleviates all the driving, loading and unloading we usually go through to gather firewood, not a bad score. That’s me with the 036 sliding through the small end of the tree like butter. Love that saw.


Is this how man invented–or discovered–the wheel? As noted above, green hemlock weighs a ton, so the easiest way to get it back to the wood storage area was to roll it. Perfect job for the shorter people in the family, as I’m a little too tall–or old, more likely–to get down and push these rounds. Good efficiency: the kids rolled ’em as I cut, so we finished up pretty quickly.


Okay, nobody call Child Protective Services…it’s not running, and Weston didn’t do any cutting. He was just hamming it up with my gear when the job was done. That old 36 is so heavy, he could barely lift it, anyway. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Raw Food Products


Tuesday dinners with Smarty are fast becoming one of my favorite traditions, and something I look forward to all week. It started as a combination excuse to hang out and a way of consuming the mass quantities of waterfowl that are unfortunate enough to come within range of Smarty’s 12 gauge. That’s Smarty’s hunting partner, Honey, posing with another pile of mallards that are waiting to be picked, cleaned and cooked in a hot oven for a very short time. These Eastern Washington corn-fed ducks are incredibly big and fat. And delicious. I doubt I will ever tire of eating ’em.


More recently, our menu has expanded. Ducks are still the mainstay, but now we’re supplementing with some other treats. That’s last week’s gorgeous, fat-laden Puget Sound winter blackmouth fillet above, salted, steaked and ready for the grill. It’s not quite Columbia spring Chinook, but nothing comes closer than this. Especially in December.


Finally, we have elk steaks, courtesy of my good friend Kate Taylor, who not only tipped the behemoth over, but delivered the goods to my house. Did I say “good friend?” I meant great. As in awesome. I marinated these slabs in olive oil, garlic and a bit of rosemary overnight. Hit ’em with kosher salt and cracked pepper, then two minutes a side on a raging barbecue and it was pure, melt-in-your-mouth heaven. I’m already looking forward to next Tuesday.

The Payoff


After our nocturnal clam dig, we returned to the Sweeney home for a most welcome, hot dinner (Thanks, Mia!) and cozy bedtime for kids. Then, despite an increasing gravitational pull that seemed to be strongest on the couch, Sweeney and I headed out to the garage for a long session of clam cleaning. The perfect post-dinner activity.

We dipped the clams in boiling water to remove the shells, then plunged them into cold water to keep ’em from cooking. Pictured above, razors minus their shells, ready for cleaning. A little scissor work to remove guts and a quick rinse and they were good to go. Of course, it sounds quick and easy, but when you multiply by 70 or 80 clams, well…Sweeney and I had a good long stretch of work. But I actually enjoyed the time, just shooting the breeze and hanging out with a good buddy. Finished up and hit the rack around 2:00am.

Next night, back at home, the kids and I went for a major-league clam feast. Here they are covered in crispy panko, fresh out of the pan. Tender, sweet, meaty, crisp, savory…the best-eating bivalve on the planet. And completely worth the effort.