Fish and Brisket and Winter’s Light

Despite the fact that we just took a short-distance, brief road trip, I crave another, longer one. Looking at a map of the USA, my eyes tend to drift toward either New Mexico and surrounding states, Oklahoma and Kansas, or Mississippi and Tennessee. In other words, a large swatch of the south-central part of the country. Once I hone in on any of those large areas, my eyes drift past the edges to nearby states. There was a time I would have liked to have taken only what William Least Heat Moon called the “blue highways,” or back roads. I still prefer the back roads, but the older I get, the more impatient I am to bypass geographic areas that offer little visual excitement; because, I suppose, the time left to me seems to get shorter by the day. My impatience sometimes leads me to take heavily-traveled roads and interstate highways. Obviously, I should have begun criss-crossing the country when I was much younger (but my impatience, then, was exponentially greater than it is today—odd, the competing obstacles of youth and its opposite). One of the reasons for my current interest in the south-central USA has to do with the season. Snow and ice tend to slow one’s travel and to increase one’s anxiety about driving. If, instead of December, April has just begun, I would focus on Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio. The sights and smells and sounds of different parts of the country are unique; every state has something to recommend it.  The impatience of youth can lead to regret in old age. “I wish I had taken time to…” That is such a familiar refrain; I hear other people say those words and I hear my own silent voice agreeing with the sad acknowledgement that impatience has taken its toll on what could have been and even greater number of memorable experiences.


Growing up on the Texas coast, fishing in Corpus Christi Bay and the Intracoastal Canal were among the pastimes I enjoyed. Salt water fishing seems quite different to me from fresh water fishing; I greatly prefer the former, probably because I had much more experience fishing in salt water. It has been so many years since I have gone fishing in either fresh or salt water that I have almost no recollection of the techniques I once practiced: tying hooks with monofilament line, baiting hooks with live shrimp, deciding when and why to use treble hooks and when to use bait-holder hooks, etc. I did not recall that bait-hold is the proper term for “regular” hooks, as I called them, so I looked up the terms. I was surprised to learn that worm, jig, circle, weedless, siwash, octopus, Aberdeen, and kahle are terms for other types of hooks; I doubt I ever used any of them. I think I would like to go “deep-water” fishing in the Gulf of Mexico—something I’ve never done—with an experienced guide who could teach me the basics, as if I had never been fishing. It has been so long, that might as well be true. I have no interest in catching fish as trophies; only fish to eat. But I am beginning to question whether fishing to eat, which I do not have to do to survive, is just my way of rationalizing the “sport” of fishing. I question so much about life on this planet; enough that I think I might like living on another one, one gentler and infused with more compassion.


I hope to be able to use my smoker within the next few days. I took the big Prime grade brisket I bought a a few months ago out of the freezer several days ago. It should be sufficiently thawed that I can prep it for smoking (rinse, trim excess fat, apply rub and pepper and let sit (in foil) overnight, then let it warm to room temperature). I have resigned myself to the fact that the brisket will not be as good as one smoked in an offset smoker filled with mesquite logs. But my little electric smoker and mesquite chips will, I hope, be at least reminiscent of that Central Texas flavor. I do so miss Central Texas brisket from places like Blacks, Kruez Market, Cooper’s, Snow’s, and others that produce spectacular smoked brisket (and heavily-peppered, course-ground sausage).  I do not eat nearly as much beef or pork or chicken as I used to. But I need to get back into cooking so I can get a sufficient volume and sufficient diversity of nutrients in my diet. I’ve grown deeply lazy about meal preparation. We rarely have an evening meal anymore; perhaps cheese and crackers, etc., but not a “meal.” Lunch, often at restaurants, usually is our main meal of the day. That is expensive and not nearly as healthful as carefully and consciously planned home-prepared meals. Speaking of home-prepared meals, I have a sudden and intense hankering for creamed salmon over rice, flavored at the table with a few judicious shakes of white pepper. I would happily eat such stuff for breakfast; mi novia prefers “breakfast food.”


Speaking from experience, I can say with conviction that feeling more or less like a human is preferable to feeling more or less like a zombie. My head remains stuffy, but the splitting headache has improved, changing into a lightly throbbing but entirely tolerable headache. A couple of acetaminophen should rachet that down even more; decongestant should finish off the traces of zombiehood.


I will treat myself with kid gloves this morning; relax and stay home, rather than go to church. As far as I can tell, today’s Illumination Service will be a repeat of the service from a year ago and two years ago and maybe even further back. I feel that playing hooky today is perfectly legitimate, especially since I have watched and listened to essentially the same service more than once.  That having been said, I may go make my third espresso, then shave and take a shower.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Fish and Brisket and Winter’s Light

  1. Becky says:

    Ditto re: today’s church service. They really need to sprinkle some fairy dust on that particular annual event.

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