While opening a can of salmon yesterday, I was reminded of the first time Granny (my husband’s maternal grandmother) ate my salmon patties.
The men in my husband’s family were farmers and because of this, the women were fantastic cooks. Now don’t get me wrong, the women in my family were great cooks, as well, in more of a gourmet meal kind of way. The women in my husband’s family were meat and potatoes, stick to your ribs, country cookin’ kind of gals.
Any time of day or night, you could go into Granny’s house and there would be pots on the stove with yummy smelling food inside. Any hour the men came in from the field or a grandchild wandered through, there would be something to eat. Inevitably, there were stewed potatoes, green beans, meat, a pan of cornbread and dessert.
I admired their cooking ability and aspired to learn their trade, knowing it would impress my husband if I could cook like his mother and grandmother.
Deciding to start with salmon patties (which my husband only tolerates to this day), I gave Granny a call and she walked me through the process on the phone. “A little of this. A pinch of that.”
I remember that salmon falling open in the bowl and seeing that long line of vertebrae and spindly rib bones. Mashing a little chunk of backbone between my fingers, I commented to Granny that the bones were surprisingly soft and did I have to remove them.
Now what she said and what I heard were obviously two different things. I thought she said I could leave them in, so I smashed them all as best I could, mixed up the whole batch of this and that, formed beautiful round patties and fried ’em up just like I thought she would do.
Granny and Papa came over that evening to do a taste test and I was so proud and eager for her approval. There they lay all golden and crispy on the platter (albeit a bit lumpy). I’ll never forget the expression on Granny’s face as she chewed that first bite. Slowly.
“You didn’t take out the bones,” she said in a hesitant voice as she swallowed. Slowly.
“I thought you said I could leave them in,” I replied, realizing that this wasn’t turning out as I had hoped. I wasn’t going to get Granny’s Blue Ribbon Seal of Approval for this batch of salmon patties.
She looked me in the eye and gently said, “I said if you missed a few you could leave them in. I didn’t say you should leave them all in.”
Of course, I was embarrassed. We laughed about it through the years, and I learned to make salmon patties with no bones.
The most important lesson that I learned, however, was in the wisdom she imparted to me that day which I have applied time and again in all areas of my life…Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.