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Food, Friends, and Frankenfish on the Snake River

Living on the river for a few days sure can be rough…so I’ve heard.  Fortunately for me, Rick, and our fellow river rafters, we were living the river life pampered-style.

When we would take a break on the shore for lunch or when we would make camp for the night, the crew of Winding Waters, Plate & Pitchfork, and Noble Rot made sure that we were exceptionally well fed.  At the helm of the culinary brigade were Leather and Joe — owner/head chef and sous chef, respectively, of Noble Rot.

As you may know, I love food photos –not simply because I like the look of well-presented, well-made food but because food (and the photos you take of wonderful dishes) connects and reconnects you to specific moments in time.  It allows you to appreciate the meal beyond the sense of taste; you go into the realm of visual art and evocative memories.  It can also function as a reminder of the origin of the ingredients or the history behind a recipe.  And it can serve as an inspiration to do things and experience things that you don’t usually do in your daily life or in your own kitchen.

The meals that Leather and Joe skillfully and lovingly prepared for us merited being captured on film.  Here are just some of the tasty dishes we savored on our river trip:

Fine cured meats and savory cheeses for lunch
Expertly cooked beef with a shrimp and vegetable salad
Pan-seared chicken yumminess
Leather and Rick spice us our tomato/blue/cheese/steak appetizers.
Social hour at camp after a thrilling day of rafting.

Now food alone is not always enough to make a notable moment.  When you contour it with mirth, convivial conversation, and a shared appreciation for the moment, you can shape the meal into memorable event.  We were so grateful to have exuberant and interesting people to create and share experiences on this trip.  We weren’t all necessarily like-minded on the broad range of topics we discussed, but we were comfortable in challenging each other and being challenged.  And we were all on the same page in our enthusiasm for adventure, delicious food, and being social.

Reliving memories from our adventures and creating new ones through newfound friendships.
A few bottles of wine, a beautiful setting, and an appreciation for all that is good are three simple ingredients for great travel memories.
John, Rick, Craig and Paul bond over some beer and the shared experience of rafting on the Snake River.

One of the things I liked best about this trip was being exposed to activities I have previously shied away from.  In this case, water sports and fishing.  Water sports are new to me, and I’m quickly developing a true appreciation and thirst for it.  At one point, fishing used to be a weekly part of my childhood, but as an adult, I can count the number of times on one hand the number of fishing trips I’ve been on.   On this trip, Rick went fishing with great success.  The fish were eager to be nabbed by his hook.  I tried it twice.  The first time, I had a nibble or two, but never caught anything.  The second time was much more rewarding.

Perching my flip-flopped feet on a sturdy rock near the edge of the riverbank, I cast my line about twenty yards out into the river.  The whizzing sound of the unwinding fishing line immediately transported me back to the days when my dad would wake me at 4:30 in the dark and early morning to pack up our car and head out to some nearby lake to catch some bass.  The all-too-familiar sound of the reel’s bail-arm clicking into place was my cue to be ready for whatever came next.

Reelin’ it in.

Slowly, I turned the handle to pull in my line, letting my artificial bait wiggle and jiggle before any nearby trout.  A small tug here and a small tug there would hopefully entice the fish even more.  And sure enough, one of them fell for it.  I felt the line being pulled away from me.  I waited three beats and then pulled the rod back to lock the hook in.  It took, and I began to reel in my prize.  He fought me quite a bit, and I didn’t have much traction in my flip-flops.  I thought that if this fish wins, I’m probably going in the drink, and I was not willing to let that be an option.  My leg muscles tightened for stability and my abs engaged for support.   And soon, I had caught my first fish in six years.

Meet Appy, my first fish I’ve caught in six years.

One of the crew, Jon, offered to clean it for me, and Leather offered to cook it up as an appetizer.  I agreed to both, and named my fish “Appy”. Now what happens next needs to be seen and not explained, but know that John thoroughly cleaned and gutted Appy prior to Leather preparing him.

Check out this video to see what followed.

After a re-cleaning, we hungry river rafters savored the tasty treat that was re-prepped and grilled just for us.

Before…
…after.

Between the food, friendship, and Frankenfish, this is one outdoor adventure I’ll not soon forget.

The happy participants of the maiden voyage of the Winding Waters/Plate & Pitchfork/Noble Rot Snake River trip.

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