The movie “A River Runs through It” which started the migration to the Siren singing wild trout rivers and streams of Northwestern Montana, is a wash-out compared to the show I was privy to while working as a chef in fishing lodges. Quite a few of the guides I had the pleasure of working around, had very personable and enthusiastic “A” type personalities. It just goes with the territory for, as I jokingly call them…..Catch and release, “Used Fish Salesmen”. I could picture in my mind’s eye, these river reeler-dealers in front of their drift boats pitching the phrase “What will it take to get you into some used fish today!”
Even after eight to ten hours of rowing, my jovial band of river brothers, upon returning to the lodge, could easily be auditioning to play parts in a screen play entitled “Montana Robin and his band of merry river bank robbers”. It was really quite the show listening to guides poking harmless fun at clients, or trying to out-brag each other on the day’s trophy trout or fish count. The guides antics kept me well entertained during the five months at a time, I was shackled to the kitchen. While busy prepping, or cooking, with my back turned towards the guides, I would often be rolling my eyes, or snickering at the daily catch and release chest thumping and good-natured barb tossing going on.
Fishing guides really love what they do, and they demonstrated it every day with their enthusiastic attitude no matter what the weather. A fishing guide’s day does not begin when they launch on the river, nor end after delivering clients back to the lodge. They must clean out their boat and vehicle, check equipment, prepare, or pick up river lunches, and “match the days hatch” from their stash of hand-tied flies.
Fishing guides are the ultimate multi-taskers. For their client’s safety, they must be experts at rowing and reading ever-changing water conditions. They often spend a good part of the day rowing against the current to re visit fish pod “honey holes”, dodging back cast hooks, switching out flies, and untangling bird nests of leader tangled by novice or weekend fly-fishers.
My days as a chef were equally long and filled with culinary multi-tasking from dawn until well past dark. It was my job to wow guests with my culinary talents. This I did more for the pleasure of pleasing than for the money. Most lodge clients spent more for their once or twice yearly fly-fishing vacations than I made in an entire five month season. At this time in my life however, I find doing what I love to do for a living, rather than working just to make a living, to be “really living”!
One of the perks I had working as a lodge chef was being able to socialize with fly-fishing clients during cocktail hour. With a plate of appetite simulators in my hand, I held an open invitation to join in fishing conversations or use as a free license to ease-drop. Many of the guests were on a first name only basis with staff, other guests, and sometimes even the owners. After all, the elite returned year after year knowing that whatever level of anonymity they want to maintain, while enjoying the great fishing and beauty of Montana, would be strictly honored.
I can truly say, even a six foot blonde in a sundress can go virtually unnoticed in the midst of a group of wealthy surgeons, lawyers, and CEOs when they are intently engrossed in conversations about their destination hopping “catch and release” fly-fishing exploits.
Aguacate Diablo (Deviled Avocado)
This recipe is another twist on an old classic, and always brought me rave reviews from clients and river guides. It is very healthy, and may be served as an appetizer, salad, or in a river lunch. The chopped hard-boiled egg whites imparts the taste of deviled eggs without the cholesterol. Mashed avocado mimics the texture of egg yokes, and the shells of avocados are a perfect serving vessel.
4 medium ripe, yet firm avocados
1 Tablespoon lime or lemon juice
4 hard-boiled eggs (yokes removed)
¼ cup olive oil or light mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons chipotle mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 Tablespoon finely chopped celery
¼ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 Tablespoons finely chopped hot peppers (jalapeno, Serrano, or habenaro) optional
Ground cayenne pepper or smoked paprika for garnish
Run a knife around the center of avocados and remove pits. Checkerboard score each avocado half, and using a tablespoon, spoon out the meat into a small mixing bowl. Leave 1/16 inch of avocado meat in the shells. Sprinkle avocado chunks with lime or lemon juice, and mash.
In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mustard, onion, salt, and peppers. Add the chopped egg whites. Stir to mix well. Stuff avocado shells with filling and dust with cayenne or paprika. These pretty salads may be topped with additional garnishes as desired.