By Mitla Nova “Misty” Lawson, as told to Crys Stewart
For Misty Lawson, life and those of her family are bound by a love and respect for the beauty and bounty of Vancouver Island’s rugged west coast. They’ve also got a special bond with a particular type of fish, one that’s fed their memories, passions and culinary creativity.
The ocean is a huge part of my life. I’m a whale-watching boat captain, so I show the people the beautiful area and the wildlife. It doesn’t get old. Being able to drive around in a boat and show people wildlife and being able to make a living—it’s the coolest thing ever. My husband owns a small seaplane and helicopter company, and I work there throughout the winter until the whale-watching season starts back up again in March.
My family moved to a little island offshore from Tofino, B.C., shortly before my eldest brother was born. There were no stores or cars; the only people there year-round were my dad and my mom, my younger sibling and my two older siblings. I was born in our house, while my older sister, Cosy, was actually born on the beach. At the time, I thought our life was pretty normal, because that’s what it was to us. I didn’t realize it was anything unusual until I got older.
I think one of the richest parts about living out here is being able to feed yourself from the ocean. My father and sister would catch the salmon for the year and we would jar and can and smoke and, basically, store salmon away for the winter. And my mom, being the person who didn’t want to waste anything at all, would scrape the bones of the salmon. That’s the really tender, juicy salmon meat. That night for dinner, we’d have teriyaki salmon. We would often cook it up on the beach—our local seafood dish fresh out of the ocean.
I didn’t learn how to make teriyaki salmon until I was older and in my own house. I had to call my mom up and say, “How did you make that teriyaki?” Now, I have two young children of my own I make this recipe for, and it’s really, really easy. Mom always used good natural ingredients, such as fresh ginger and lots of garlic—usually fresh out of the garden. I think the kids like the sweetness of the sauce, and adults like the ginger part. It just kind of works for everybody.
We’re so lucky to have so much salmon that you do get inventive. My mom makes the most amazing salmon dips, jarred salmon, salmon sandwiches and smoked salmon. My parents have a beautiful little funky smokehouse they built with a little fire pit in the middle. They get green alder so it doesn’t burn but just smokes. Candied salmon is definitely one of the favourites. We didn’t realize what we had as kids. We’d be saying, “Aww, salmon again?”
There is nothing that compares to freshly caught salmon. I wouldn’t even add anything to it. If it’s caught that day, a tiny bit of salt and pepper is all you’d need and it would be the best thing you’ve ever tasted.
Teriyaki Salmon, courtesy of Misty Lawson
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
⅓ cup (75 mL) liquid honey
⅓ cup (75 mL) soy sauce
8 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp (30 mL) freshly grated ginger
1½ lb (675 g) salmon meat
1. In heavy-bottomed pan, cook butter, honey, soy sauce, garlic and ginger over medium-high heat, stirring, until thick.
2. Add salmon; cook, turning occasionally, until fish flakes easily when tested with fork (time depends on how thick you cut the slices). Don’t overcook salmon!
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