Summer and early fall are spent fishing in the little village of Pilot Point. Last year, my husband and I filled almost our entire deep freeze with salmon and trout. Unfortunately, at the end of the school year this year, the school district told us we needed to turn off our electricity over the summer. This threw me into a full-blown panic, as I didn’t want to throw away our unused food.
I donated much of our food, things like the frozen veggies or burgers. The fish that we caught I felt so much attachment to though that I hated to donate it. This fish represented Cody and I’s hard work from the previous summer. That fish represented the long hours that we had spent hauling nets off of the beach and filleting them up. That fish represented a learning experience that I’ll never forget.
Still, I knew I couldn’t let it go to waste. There was much internal debate, and external because Cody was adamant that I get rid of it and stop being so sentimental. Finally, I ended up deciding to donate about 50% of it to a few local families. The other 50% I decided that I would bring back to the lower 48 with me as gifts for my family. I packed up my little red cooler full of about 30 fillets and a few jars of salmon, and hoped that everything would stay frozen for the duration of our travels. I ended up taking enough that each family member that we shared fish with received about 4 packs of fillets and a jar of canned salmon.
Luckily, everything stayed frozen during our travels. I packed the fish in tightly and lined the top and bottom of the cooler with ice packs. Then, I duct taped the cooler closed to ensure that it would stay tightly sealed throughout our travels. I also let the airline know that it was perishable and they put it in a freezer for me up until our flight left, which I was endlessly thankful for. When we landed, the first thing I wanted to do was tear open the cooler and check on the state of my fish, but I refrained because I knew that the second I opened it the temperature in the cooler would start dropping.
When I finally reached my mom’s house, one of the very first things I did was transfer the fish into her freezer. I was amazed that everything was still 100% frozen. My ice packs had become a bit mushy, but even they weren’t totally soft yet. I was pretty impressed too because the cooler was just a cheapie from Walmart. I had been throwing around the idea of getting a Yeti because we often require a cooler to transport food back to the village from Anchorage. I think I’ll be sticking with my Walmart cheapie for awhile though because it held up so well through three flights and 4,000+ miles of travel.
One of the nicest things about taking fish home to my family was that I was able to show-off some of my cooking skills, all while sharing a meaningful part of my life with them. Most people won’t get the opportunity to eat wild caught salmon from Alaska (or if they do it’s the crummy Chum Salmon that is often pedaled in the lower 48). Since arriving, I’ve been busily cooking and sharing recipes, which has been a fun experience. I’m so glad I pushed to bring home some of the salmon because it has been a hit!