While sitting on my porch this evening, watching the kids run around with sparklers, a familiar song came on and my mind began to drift. Actually, after attending two different firework shows this weekend, the entire holiday has been a trip down memory lane. The sounds, the smells, the patriotic buzz in the air, all reminded me of being in Pensacola for the 4th when I was a kid. We used to have pretty darn good firework shows in Laurel when I was growing up, as well. Independence Day is a fun time to be a kid. That song got me to thinking of all of the things that have changed since my childhood, so I figured I’d write about some of them that somehow came to mind.
One of the things that I noticed over the weekend was the amount of children with cell phones. I drifted around Temple Baptist Church’s Community Picnic on Sunday evening and was blown away at all of the selfies being taken. I’m not being judgmental. My initial thoughts were of how I wished I’d had a camera in my pocket over the years. There’s no telling how many fish I’ve caught that nobody believed my story. If only I’d had a chance to take a picture to show them! Then again, after conversing with my good buddy, Ben Beasley, it’s probably a good thing we didn’t have camera phones growing up. We might not be employable if we did.
Speaking of fishing, I might have mentioned this before, but they now have rods with eyelets that glow in the dark for night fishing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on a riverbank wondering if my rod was bending or not. Last summer I was introduced to a little clip on bell to put on your rod for night fishing. Where in the heck were these things when I was growing up? And even better than glow-in-the-dark rods and bells, we now have remote control trolling motors, and trolling motors controlled by GPS. No more struggling to keep the boat going straight while your dad tells you just how great a job you’re doing. Electric reels for deep sea fishing to keep you from wearing your dainty arms out, new sonar systems that you can actually watch the fish eat your bait, and life jackets that automatically inflate when they go in the water are a few other futuristic inventions that have made fishing so much easier.
Even with all of the new inventions, my favorite thing about fishing remains unchanged: eating the fish. The girls were nice enough to buy me a large gas fryer for Father’s Day. This sucker holds 3 gallons of oil and can cook enough food to feed the neighborhood in no time. I’ve tried it out with some deer meat already, but I’m itching to sink some flathead catfish in it. I can’t tell you how many times people turn up their noses when you start talking about cooking large flathead catfish from the river. For some reason, someone neglected them and told them they aren’t any good when they get big. To me, the flathead catfish is the fillet mignon of the river. It’s not fishy tasting, and you don’t have to worry about bones if you clean the fish properly. Here are some tips to cooking the best catfish you’ll ever eat (with apologies to Jerry’s Catfish in Florence, MS.)
Tip A) when preparing your meat, cut out all of the dark red flesh in the meat. This part of the fish, usually down the tail meat, is edible but not the desired meat you want. Also get rid of any silver looking tissue on the meat. Tip B) don’t over season! It won’t take much seasoning to prepare this fish for the fryer. You want to taste the deliciousness of this fish without all of the additives. I use just a little bit of salt, pepper, and Tony Chachere seasoning sprinkled on the fish before rolling it in yellow corn meal. You can use a pre-mix seasoning if you prefer. Zatarain’s makes a pretty good one called “Crispy Southern”. Tip C) Heat your grease to between 350-360 degrees. If you get it too hot, you’ll burn the fish. If you get it too low, you’ll end up with fish soaked with grease. Don’t overcook your fish. Once they begin to float and brown it’s time to pull them out. Set them on paper towels to dry and cool.
With the summer fading fast, now is the time to get out with your kids and do some fishing. Watching mine this weekend, and thinking about my childhood, raised my awareness of how important it is that we include our kids in the outdoors. I’m grateful for the people that thought it was a good idea to take me fishing, and teach me how to cook them. Here’s to hoping mine learn as much as I did.