As I watch little C march out into summer school in her fluffy skirt and sleeveless top (summer!) and her electric blue flats, I realize, once again, how quickly time flies. It seems like only yesterday she was a helpless little thing who would wake up every 2 hours needing to be fed, breath smelling sweetly of milk. Now she is a far from helpless, fiercely independent little firecracker with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of her own opinion. Her breath, suffice to say, does not smell sweetly of milk anymore, and she is, most of the time, breathless and sweaty from how much she runs around (plus, it’s summer!). I want to hang on to every bit of unrestrained laughter, every bedtime story/tuck-in (no matter how much irrational delaying tactics play a part), every sticky hug, every little moment.
I’ve never been a motherly person. Little C has been, and still is, the only infant I have ever held in my life. I have never been absolutely confortable with children, and I can’t say, my own aside, that I am now. It still takes me by surprise that it’s taken just this one cherry bomb to turn me into a mother. And of all the things, in these past three years, that I have done with her, the one thing that makes me feel the mother-child connection the most is feeding her.
I don’t mean nursing…although I did do that for the first year of her life. I mean feeding her actual food. The food I make and the food I eat. Carefully picking choice bits from my plate and placing them in her waiting mouth. Especially if I’m doing it with my hands. I feel like I am taking part in a ritual older than time, something billions of mothers did before me. That careful, deliberate, passing on of nourishment.
As soon as the simple days of food introduction where done, and food allergies were ruled out, I tried to give her food that was not too different from what we ourselves ate (just being cautious about salt and sugar). I wanted her to try as much as she could, and to know and appreciate where this food comes from. We would bring her to market (we still do) and show her whole fish and vegetables with the dirt still on them. She loves the fishmongers stall…particularly the live crabs and the fish. And I, in turn, love showing her that fish come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I don’t know many nursery rhymes or children’s games or arts and crafts, but that I do know. And that I can teach.
Fried Fish with Garlic Lemon Butter Caper Sauce
- Oil for frying
- 1 large dapa (flounder?), approximately 1 kilo
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons butter
- juice from half a lemon
- Season your fish on both sides, and inside the cavity, with salt and pepper. Dust with the flour and shake of excess.
- Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. When hot, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer.
- Add the fish gently to the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and then flip to cook the other side. Cook until the other side is likewise golden and the fish is cooked through. Remove from the pan.
- Drain the oil from the pan and wipe dry. Return the pay to the heat and add the butter. When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the garlic. Let the garlic fry until fragrant, this happens fairly quickly. Add the capers and let's this fry for a bit. Remove the pan from the heat ad add the lemon juice. Mix well and transfer the sauce into a dish.
- Serve the fish with the sauce on the side long with some lemon wedges for those who want them.
I used one whole fish here – a dapa (which I think is related to flounder? anyone?) weighing in at almost 1 kilo. This was actually a little too big for my tastes, I like fish to be a bit smaller when fried whole (this size I like baked, or steamed in the oven in this big old covered baking dish I won at a costume party…I was a school teacher). C however loved its meaty abundance. You can use almost any fish for this though. A couple of smaller tilapias would do nicely, or a small lapu-lapu. Or whatever fish is fresh and readily available where you are. You can certainly use fillets as well, although if you are able to get fresh whole fish on the bone I encourage you to do so as they are really delicious.
You can scale the quantities for the sauce up if you expect to use a lot. Actually, I think that would be a good idea. We had this with steaming hot rice and I loved the sauce both smothered on my fish as well as squashed into my rice. It's a notch above regular lemon butter sauce and packs a lot more flavor.
Little C is not the perfect eater, and now that she has her own opinions it is not as easy to get her to try everything, but she does love her fishies, especially if she sees them on the bone. In fact, she seems to enjoy fish best when she sees me picking the meat for her from a whole fish on my plate. And I never feel as “earth mother” as when I am doing just that. That, at least, is one big mission accomplished in my book.