Leland E. Hale (Almost) Meets the Fish Tender

Dinner that third evening out was moose spaghetti. There was nothing fancy about it. Loads of noodles. I mean loads. Moose meat cooked till tender and tossed with some “Italian” seasoning that I found at the back of the boat’s pantry. My “sauce” was two cans of tomatoes, some tomato paste, some sugar, some water and a prayer. And, yes, I taste-tested at every step. It was tasty.

My single-minded goal was to avoid a meal that was the ghost of school lunchrooms past.

The spaghetti was served with “garlic” bread — nothing more than white bread spread with margarine and a sprinkle of garlic powder, gently toasted in the oven. Gentle toasting was what my galley did best. Gentle toasting was my friend.



To top it off, we had the ever-present jar of Kraft® Parmesan cheese. Help yourself. There’s plenty.





I’d cooked for ten but we ate it all, down to the last stains of red sauce. We were hungry, for sure. And we all knew there was more work ahead of us. Tonight, we would tie up to a fish tender and offload our catch.

We pulled up to the fish tender as the last strains of direct light frittered on the horizon in Alaska’s long summer dusk. There was already a lineup of boats; we would wait our turn.

Because I was the cook — and had to get up early to prep breakfast — I was exempt from the fish tendering process. I was nonetheless fascinated. In days long past, this was a labor-intensive process, involving the transfer of fish to bins that were then loaded onto the tender. Now there was a vacuum pump.

Think of it as a gigantic vacuum cleaner that’s lowered into the brine hold.


Think of it as a giant sucking sound that pulls all the salmon onto the tender, where they are weighed, credited and stored till they reach the cannery.


Think of this as better than anything before it, though still in need of babying. When we got down toward the bottom of our catch, the crew had to jump into the brine hold and sweep the remaining salmon toward the waiting vacuum hose. That took nearly as long as all the rest of the fish tendering process combined.

For once, I was glad to be the cook, excused from that half-light climb into a slithering mass of fish in my bibs, Xtratuf’s and gloves.

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2018). All rights reserved.


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