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Feb 26, 2009

He Who Smelt It

Smelt4 Tonight my place smells awful not because of "that"  but because I fried up a mess of smelt.  So very good, just coated in seasoned flour and sizzling while I watched Wake's defense stay one step ahead of State's offense.

I've never cooked smelt before (and maybe fried fish fewer than a half-dozen times in my life) but boy it was easy. What's Cooking America has a fascinating history of smelt in the Pacific Northwest, including this excerpt of an article on smelt potlatch:

"David Lewis and Scott Byram in their article Ourigan - Wealth of the Northwest Coast talks about the ooligan oil:

The Indians of the Northwest were known for their great wealth, and nutritious ooligan oil was one of their most valued trade goods. Some of the greatest potlatch ceremonies were ooligan 'grease feasts,' and ooligan also was a medicine.

Tribal chiefs would hold "grease feast . . . in order to destroy the prestige of the rival" chiefs. The ooligan grease feast was the most expensive of all the feast, "at which erormous quantities of fish oil (made of the oulachon) are consumed and burnt . . . "During a grease feast, the central fire is built up to the point of scorching the guests in order for the host to conquer them, and "grease is poured into the fire so that the blankets of guests get scorched." This serves to raise the prestige of the host who can afford to give such a feast, expending enormous quantities of the valued resource. If the rival chief is not able to respond with a similar potlatch and destroy an equal amount of property, then his name is "broken" and he suffers a loss of prestige"

Conspicious Consumerism, anyone?

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Photo from whatscookingamerica.com

11:16 PM | Permalink

Comments

The tradition continues today, except it has evolved into burning garlic bread to impress dinner guests with the host's ability to withstand the smoke.

Posted by: unknown chef | Feb 27, 2009 5:10:54 AM