I spent time on the phone this afternoon with my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, a ninety-plus-year old woman. Though her eyesight is failing, her mind remains sharp and her wicked sense of humor is equally capable of slicing through a moment.
During our conversation, the topic naturally turned to herring, as conversations are wont to do. She mentioned a New Year’s Eve tradition in her family, while she was growing up, of snacking on herring from a jar or a barrel. Being something of a smoked and pickled herring aficionado, I warmed right up to the subject and told her about my own “growing up with herring” experience.
My experience involved buying smoked herring, dried to the point of having the strength of beef jerky. My childhood herring snacks were kipper snacks, as I recall, and sold in shrink-wrapped containers holding about six “sticks” of the salty treats. I have been unable to find them since my college days, or thereabouts, which translates into a lot of years.
Mardella knew exactly what I was talking about. She remembered the same snacks, though not shrink-wrapped, from her youth. “My father called them blind robins,” she said, and allowed as how that term might have been one of his own making, because she had never heard anyone else use the term.
Thanks to the wonders of Google and the availability of my notebook computer next to the couch where I sat during the call, I quickly found all manner of references to dried, smoked herring snacks called blind robins! Moreover, many of the websites had them for sale! And the pictures of the blind robins were exactly as I remember my childhood treats!
She was a little surprised at her own memory of those snacks from a time she said “must have been seventy-five years ago.” I wasn’t surprised, having had experience with her remarkable memory.
I promised Mardella that, when I order some blind robins, I will see to it that I send her a sample.