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Friday, June 29, 2012

A Pretty Kettle of Fish

I confess.  A fried seafood platter was the highlight of the last week.  As I sit down to write this post six days later, it’s still on my mind . . . It helps, I suppose, that the circumstances surrounding the meal meant it wasn’t any old fish and chips. 

An unexpected “situation,” resulted in our reluctant decision late Friday night to drive up to Maine the following morning.  Once there, my husband and I ended up in Portland, where we scored an on-street parking space, and realized we were both starving.  Hiking down a stretch of busy waterfront, we turned into an unpretentious place called Gilbert’s Chowder House, where the blackboard menu listed a selection of fresh fish entrees, and there was available seating on the outside deck.

Let me be clear.  The morning started off grumpy.  We were in Maine under what you might call “duress.”  A long list of chores we’d postponed waited for us back home, and the weekend was now a day shorter.  But as we situated ourselves under an umbrella at a picnic table overlooking Portland Harbor, a breeze wafted toward us carrying the briny smell of the sea and a tantalizing aroma of out-of-the-fryer fish. 
If you live inland, you may not know this, but here in coastal New England, there a few things that say "summer" and "vacation" the way fried seafood does. (Okay, steamed lobster ranks right up there, but that’s another post.)  The waitress handed us a small card printed with a limited menu, informed us the seafood platter would easily feed two, and placed plastic squeeze bottles of tartar and cocktail sauce on the table.  We weren’t in Maine for a holiday, but all of a sudden it felt like we were.

Had we been home, my husband would have mowed the lawn and cleaned the gutters.  I would have spent the day yanking prolific daisies out of the garden and grocery shopping.  If we were lucky, we might have met in the kitchen for a few minutes around lunchtime, before regrouping for supper.  

Instead, we had several hours of conversation in the car plus during lunch, across a crisp mountain of clams, shrimp, scallops, haddock and a side of killer onion rings.  And because we had an afternoon in front of us before “circumstances” allowed us to head back south, after lunch we meandered down the coast, pulled into a nature reserve and hiked around a salt water estuary.

We could have done all of these things at home. But on an ordinary weekend, there’s a huge gap between “could” and “would,” so in the end, that which frustrated me Friday night, triggered an unexpected bonus.  My husband and I had one of the nicest days we’ve had in a long while.  

It was one of those times when karma was on our side—including our good fortune to be sitting in a parking lot, not cruising down the highway when an appalling thunderstorm hit on the way home.  Oh, and that the top third of the fifty-foot pine tree laying in our yard when we arrived home, didn’t come close to the house, and missed the gardens on its way down.  

On top of one heck of an amazing plate of seafood and the rest of the day’s unplanned pleasures, I’m delighted we weren’t home when it snapped.

Hope your weekend is filled with unexpected delights.


Jan Morrison said...

This is so lovely in every way. A gift of a day wrapped in old newspapers. I hope against hope that my fella and I can recreate our second date this weekend (10 years later) and take the canoe out the bay, tie up to a little rocky island, and I'll feed him fried chicken and potato salad and he'll impress me with making coffee for two.
These moments are the best - I once heard a survivor of a concentration camp say 'never underestimate the wonderfulness of a boring day'. I get it!

Anne Gallagher said...

What a wonderful day. Sadly, I won't be getting to the beach this year. Circumstances with the move prevent this and I am so disappointed, but being here with your post and fried clams makes my mouth water. I can smell the salt air and taste the tarter sauce. Thanks for a great trip to Maine.

Sorry about the tree.

Carol Kilgore said...

Whatever circumstances sent you away from home did its job well. Just like a turning point in a novel. Glad the treetop missed everything important.

Happy Weekend!

Old Kitty said...

Gosh that tree!! Glad all was safe!! Take care

Johanna Garth said...

This was such a beautiful post. I love days like this. Kudos to the tree for adding a tinge of drama and now I'm craving fish and chips!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Sounds like a day of sheer serendipity. I'm glad your initial grumpiness didn't blind you to all the good stuff that came of the day. And that fried seafood platter sounds awesome. I could almost smell and feel the sea breeze.

KarenG said...

A fried fish platter along the coast of Maine sounds absolutely wonderful! It would be the highlight of my week, too.

Robin said...

I love it when we get the best things when we least expect them.

Now, I can't say your pine tree falling down is a good thing exactly, but it could have been a much worse thing. So, it still counts.

Bish Denham said...

Oh I do love those serendipitous moments when things work out in was way far better than you thought they could.

I'm also glad that tree didn't do any serious damage.

mshatch said...

An hour further north and you could've stopped in for coffee at my house :)

Haven't been to Gilbert's Chowder House but I'm putting it on my list and oh, don't you just love outdoor seating on a nice summer's day. Reminds me of a place at the Embarcadero in San Francisco *sigh*

Lydia Kang said...

That dish would have been the highlight of my week too! Mm.

Wine and Words said...

Such a day. Such a memory. So beautifully captured here. I'm smiling for both of you :)