last column

I think it might sound more ‘normal’ to say that I am not good at goodbyes, but who am I kidding? I’ve never been the most normal person in the world and in all honesty I am actually quite good at saying goodbye. I’ve said goodbye probably a million times in my life and have developed a talent for it. I’ve had lots of practice and practice makes perfect They say and yet I sit here trying to fill this empty page with a goodbye for Brandon and am having an unusually hard time.

I moved to Brandon four years ago today. I remember it well because it snowed the day after we moved into the yellow house up on the hill. I woke up, looked out my window and saw that Spring had been dusted with Winter’s ashes.

I had lived here for two years before Alex came into the picture. I held the position of world’s dorkiest clerk at Aubuchon’s and he came in to buy a snow shovel. It was February and he was getting ready to start at the police academy. He came to Brandon that weekend to get a feel for the town and it had snowed the night before. I don’t remember seeing him but he ‘set his cap’ on me right there, right then, in spite of all my dorkiness. It took six months and a hurricane to finally get us together. The town split down its middle, buildings were rearranged, streams burst their bounds and removed the ground beneath our feet and he and I stood there at the edge of the mess and exchanged looks and thoughts and even a few words. I remember seeing the kindness deep in his sparkling dark eyes as he told me how much he enjoyed talking with the towns people who had come out to view the damage. My skirt was dip-dyed by muddy sewage and I clomped along the broken side walk in oversized rubber boots, my crazy hair tied back in a bandana, and he decided he was going to ask me out on a date.

Four months later we got married under a full moon. It was deep in December and snowing again, the ground cracked and groaned under my feet as I walked out of the chapel as Mrs. Gaylor. The next day we came back to Brandon and I moved from the yellow house up on the hill to the white house in the heart of town. We returned to our jobs Monday morning, the cop and his waitress, and I bought coffee for the regulars at the diner, holding my own sort of wedding reception with any one who cared to be a part of it. It was perfect.

We brought our first baby home to Brandon in the middle of a blistering heat wave and received our parental ‘baptism by fire’ within the walls of our cozy apartment. Our little bear has learned to love this town as much as I have, enjoying leisurely strolls downtown on Sunday afternoons, wandering in and out of the shops where the people have come to know us by name. I’ve eaten more pastry than can be good for any human being and decorated our home with little things I’ve collected on our walks. I will miss Sunday afternoons. And the people. And the pastry.

I fell in love with a man who had fallen for the Sea long before he met me, and that’s where we are moving this weekend – to the ocean, the coast of Maine.  I am excited about this new chapter in our lives, but it hasn’t quite started yet and I am lingering on the last page of this part of the story. A part that you have been a prominent character in, dear reader! I’ve met some of the kindest, most original and wonderful people here in Brandon who have been so willing to reach into my own life and swirl the waters. I can only hope that I’ll be leaving a generous smudge or two here and there when I leave.

I’m generally pretty good at goodbyes, but this one is stumping me. Perhaps I’d better just say thank you and leave it at that. Thank you for coming in and teasing me at the hardware store, for tipping me generously when I was your waitress. Thank you for remembering my name and drinking coffee at my impromptu wedding reception. Thank you for waving at us when we walk down town and for stopping me and telling me that you enjoyed my last column. Brandon – you’ve been great and will not be forgotten. I am honored to be have been a part of your story even for a little while. Take care!

not the captain’s salmon patties

I remember the summer they opened a Captain D’s in the parking lot of the local home improvement mega-store.

For those of you unfamiliar with Captain D’s, well then, thankfully, you have been spared thus far. Captain D’s is, was or posed as a fast food seafood restaurant chain. Yes, you read that right – a fast food seafood restaurant. Chain. In the parking lot of a home improvement store. In Northwest Ohio.  Yum.

Construction on the place continued through the Spring and early Summer and we speculated and talked and wondered and doubted and finally decided that we would scrape together some money and go there when it opened. It was such a strange sight, a small building decorated like a seaside cabin complete with buoys and fake lobster traps, wooden posts falsely aged to look like old piers tethered around the parking lot and to complete the mood a large, plaster figure dressed like the man on the fish stick box waited to greet guests at the door. It fit in perfectly with the corn fields and Tractor Supply Store across the street! I remember feeling all tingly inside at having our own small piece of the coast right there in Defiance, Ohio.

It took us some weeks, perhaps even months before we could afford to go there but we finally did. It was seafood designed to at once please the natives and mask an undeniable lack of freshness – everything was thickly battered and deep fried. Everything. “Do you want hush puppies with that?”

Oh, hush puppies. Delicious little balls of salty, greasy, corny goodness and by far our favorite part of the seafood meal. I don’t remember much about eating the food, but I do remember that we were violently ill for the next 48 hours. My brothers swore off seafood for life (a bad hush puppy will do that to a fellow) and I still cringe inwardly when I hear the words “hush” and “puppy” in the same sentence. “Crab fritter” and “popcorn oysters” do the same thing. Lesson learned.

The recipe I’m sharing this week is for Salmon Patties, a sort of peace offering to my memories of Captain D’s. My mom makes these and even my brothers eat them, if that tells you anything. They are everything they should be; flavorful, light and terribly easy to throw together. The fish is not masked with a lot of fancy ingredients or pasty batter, nor is it flaunted and overbearing, it just IS, and it’s great.

Salmon Patties

1 can pink Alaskan salmon

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

2 eggs lightly beaten

4 Tblsp oil or lard for frying

Empty your can of salmon into a mixing bowl. If you want, remove the bones. This isn’t a necessary step, but I know some people who are a little unnerved at the thought of eating fish bones. Break up the fish with a fork before adding your bread crumbs, salt, pepper, parsley, garlic powder and eggs. If you wanted, you could throw in a little minced onion or celery, but I like mine Pure. Mix everything together and then heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil and scoop some of the salmon mix into the skillet. I use a large spoon and ‘shape’ them into patties in the pan. You will probably have to cook them up in two or three batches, but it will be worth it. Let them cook on even heat for 6 minutes or so, until they’ve gotten a nice, brown crust then flip them over and let them cook a few minutes more. Once the flip side has a nice crust you are ready to fish them out and serve them with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce or even – dare I say – hush puppies! Enjoy!