In May, when Bob, Drew, and I got off the jetty boat at Fisherman’s Wharf in Port Aransas, we saw the Scat Cat unloading their passengers from a 5 hour fishing trip into the Gulf of Mexico. The Scat Cat and Wharf Cat are tri-hull boats that operate out of Fisherman’s Wharf along with the jetty boat that takes beach goers and fishing folks to St. Joe Island. There is also a gas station and convenience store on the marina for fishing boats and tourists. (www.wharfcat.com)
Fishing was good that day because there were hundreds of pounds of red snapper stacked on the platform. We paused to look at the catch and Drew commented that he wanted to go out on the boat. (For your birthday? Your grandpa and I went out while your mom was pregnant with you. We could celebrate your birthday with a fishing trip.)
Since Drew’s b’day and Father’s Day are both in June, we decided that Bob and his boys might enjoy an all night fishing trip to celebrate. It would have been Bob and his kids if Chelsea weren’t preggers, but since she is, it became a guy thing. And because they are all three crazy night owls, they decided to go out at 10 p.m. for the 12 hours trip.
Drew and Bob planned his next visit to south Texas for June 28; Bob booked the fishing trip with the boys for 10 p.m. June 30 with a return at 10 a.m. on the 1st of July. I wrote boys, but Drew’s 22 and Bobby’s 24. Bob’s starting to see his three kids as evolving into grown-ups. Taking his sons on the fishing trip excited Bob since he had shared a great time with his dad 22 years ago. There is something magical about that time when a parent can look at their children and see adults. It comes at different times and different ages, but it is both a funny-weird and wonderful feeling.
The week before the fishing trip, tropical storm Debby, which made landfall on the Atlantic side of Florida, pushed sufficient water into the Gulf to cause higher than usual tides on the Texas coast. An unrelated tropical wave brought needed rainfall to south Texas. Did we think about cancelling the trip?
Not even for a second.
Drew flew in from Houston and Bob confirmed their reservation on the boat for Saturday. Bob passed out the Dramamine at 8 p.m. Saturday night so it would be effective by the time they hit the high seas.
Despite the high tides, strong winds, and waves of rainfall, there were plenty of people ready to board the boat. It was quickly evident that this trip wouldn’t be calm and easy. The Scat Cat struggled to get out of the jetties and ended up tailing a tanker out of the harbor, staying in the wake so they weren’t fighting the swells.
Waves kept the boat rolling; the loudspeaker repeated the announcement that passengers needed to throw up over the rail and not into the trashcans. Parents tied their children into the upper deck bunks to keep them from rolling onto the floor. Nobody was buying beer or wine. The sandwiches grew stale in the refrigerator.
Waves of nausea surprised Bobby who regularly goes fishing in the Gulf. Drew, who never met a stranger, befriended a family but found that there’s an unfortunate chain reaction to vomit. Bob ran up and down the ladder checking on the boys.
That sounds like they had the worst time ever, doesn’t it?
A couple of days ago, Max’s son brought in fresh coffee beans that cost $35 a pound. (“They’re gourmet, Margaret. They aren’t even the most expensive ones.”) We ground them with ceremony and made a pot of coffee taking the first sip after a desktop drum roll. Silence. A second sip. Swish, swish. Eye contact. (“I don’t think it tastes that much better, Margaret.”) Good but not $35 a pound good for our poor palate.
The fish that Bob and Sons caught cost about $35 a pound after we calculated the trip cost and estimated the cleaned weight of the snapper. But in this case, the cost doesn’t reflect the value of the trip. The truth is that Bob got to talk to the boys, individually and together, without the distractions of Acts of War or Madden, texting and women. Right now, the humor of this trip outshadows any profound memory that might wriggle to the surface. I don’t know important times until distance has let me sift them. I didn’t know that I’d had the “best time ever” until there wasn’t a chance to have another time, good or bad.
Bob counts the trip he took with his dad on the Scat Cat as a defining time. His dad had just been diagnosed with cancer and ceremoniously threw his last pack of cigs over the side of the boat after he gave Bob the news. It was a golden moment between father and son, one he didn’t recognize as so important until time, loss, and sobriety brought it into focus.
I suspect that time will do its job on the trip just as it will on Bob and his sons’ relationship. In the meantime, the red snapper is delicious. Bob filleted it and I blackened it for some gourmet fish tacos. They get to be called gourmet because the fish cost $35 a pound.
Incredible Edible Gourmet Fish Tacos
(I am not a chef or even a good cook, but good ingredients make these terrific.)
- Make a fresh salsa by finely chopping 3 peeled and seeded Roma tomatoes, a couple of seeded serrano peppers, a clove or two of garlic, about 1/3 of a red onion, and a bunchette of cilantro. Stir together with the juice of 2 limes and salt and pepper. Chop a peeled and seeded avocado and toss it with lime. Put the ‘cado and salsa in the fridge.
- Heat your oven to 350 degrees and put 8-10 flour tortillas, tightly wrapped in foil, on the bottom shelf to warm. (You could also put them in a skillet and heat them one at a time, but by the time we are ready to eat, we are like locusts and one at a time tortilla is too slow.)
- Rinse fish and sprinkle with lime. Liberally dust with Emerils’ Essence seasoning. It’s a great blackened seasoning and worth the trouble to mix yourself. (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/emerils-essence-recipe/index.html)
Put your cast iron skillet on the cook-top with medium high heat and heat with a splop of olive oil until hot. Add a couple of the fish fillets and cook until you see white creeping through the fillet; flip and cook a few minutes more until done.
You’ll probably need to add more olive oil as you cook the fillets. We cooked about 1-1/2 lbs. of snapper fillets and that made 10 tacos.
- We like loading the flour tortilla with fish, salsa, avocado, sour cream, and grated cheese. I usually squeeze lime on mine before adding the “stuff.” Bob’s looks like a Dagwood taco and it takes both of his hands to handle it.
Gourmet or not, they are great.