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Jack Zaleski, Published May 12 2012

Zaleski: Fishing, Mother’s Day came together

The non-debate that sometimes flares about opening Minnesota’s fishing season on Mother’s Day weekend took me back to the last time my dad and I fished together. It was Mother’s Day in 1961. He would be gone by the end of the year.

My dad and uncle were fishing partners. They built a wood-slat and fiberglass boat together, bought a gleaming Evinrude outboard to power it and were on a lake or river nearly every weekend of the long New England fishing season. They took me along every time.

That last outing started early, but not before Dad had presented Mom with Mother’s Day flowers and a card. “From you and your sister,” he said to me.

My mother said something like, “Bring me fish, and I’ll make you men a Mother’s Day dinner you’ll never forget.”

I have not forgotten. Her Italian cooking heritage placed her kitchen as near to heaven as a mortal can be.

The fishing at Compensating Reservoir in Barkhamsted, Conn., was excellent. After a day in the sun and breeze on the big lake, our take included chain pickerel, trout and a few bullheads – more than enough for a much-anticipated meal.

Mom did not disappoint. We cleaned the catch; she prepared it for the pan. By sunset, the aromas of fresh fish sauteed in olive oil and her mysterious mix of spices and batters were wafting through the working-class neighborhood of my youth. Boiled potatoes (lots of butter), green beans and a crisp Italian salad completed the main dish. Dad and Uncle had their beers; sister and I swigged cold Cokes from those small iconic green-glass bottles.

Good time. Mom loved to cook as much as she loved to watch family enjoy her cooking.

In any other context, fishing on Mother’s Day might have been a tad unseemly, but not that day. My mother turned a Mother’s Day fishing outing into a memorable family day. And so, in every way, it was her day. The memory happily lingers, and I thank her for it.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.