I’m on an early flight en route to Winnipeg as I type this out, it’s Canada Day and I can’t help but feel a little giddy because today is the last day before Claude’s audition for MasterChef Canada and I’m his self-appointed head cheerleader!
Friends and family are important to Claude, we have that in common. He is the definition of Host with the Most in my mind. As I reflect on the countless times I’ve sat at his table one time in particular sprung to mind. We were visiting Rouge Mountain on the lovely island of St Martin. Our housekeeper told us of the weekly fish market right on the shore and, always trying to embrace what the locals enjoy, Claude decided we’d be up at the crack of dawn to greet the boats as they came in with their catch of the day.
Since Claude is the planner that he is, we were early. We found some locals getting coffee and a pastry I could only describe as a cross between a doughnut and a sweet bun and we happily tried one for ourselves. Island time is a different sort of thing; the boats came in not en mass rather trickling in one by one. We checked out the stalls as the attendants of each one tried to cajole us into buying from them. Claude’s great to watch in a market. He’s careful never to get to enthusiastic, and his laissez faire method usually nets us better pricing. I on the other hand smile from ear to ear with such gusto that the market stall workers look at me as the answer to their prayers. Suffice it to say I always let Claude carry the money and make the final decisions.
Phread and Eric believe that both Claude and I, when given the choice, choose the rarest ingredients (often searching a dozen stores to find it) or the recipe with the most ingredients. Their assertion may be largely correct but I assure you Claude’s motives are simple; to make a pleasing dish. On this particular morning he meet a man from a boat with a fish that we’d never seen before. We made our purchases (after dickering on price en français) and headed back to the villa.
The fisherman told us he feed this fish to his kids lightly battered and it roughly translated to Old Lady. It had one main piece of cartilage instead of many bones. Unsure of what to do, Claude set to work cleaning and butchering it. We floured it and lightly fried it in sort of a finger size format. It was buttery, rich even and took a nice dusting of salt. It was delicious but…weird. Eating it was a little bit like eating ribs off a bone, not at all the fish experience one was expecting. When our housekeeper saw what we made she laughed a little at us, which we took as a compliment. Clearly we were the first visitors who braved a local dish like this. That in itself is a win in Claude’s book.
I know the journey ahead for Claude will be filled with many first times and I know he’ll do well as he addresses all the challenges with reckless abandon. And trust me, its going to taste great.