My friend, Doug, lived and worked in Yosemite National Park for more than 30 years. One night, a horrendous storm sent a 200-year-old ponderosa pine crashing through the roof of his beloved cabin, slamming onto his bed just 6 inches from his startled face.
Most folks would have run screaming from the premises. Mr. Cool, however, lay there in composed contemplation. Finally, he reached through the tangle of branches, picked up his phone and dialed the front desk of nearby Yosemite Lodge. When one of his employees answered, Doug calmly asked if the night bellman would please deliver a pack of cigarettes. That is how the rest of Yosemite Valley residents ultimately learned of Doug's near-death experience.
Such humor and spunk saw him through the months and months of negotiating the National Park Service's thorny red tape during reconstruction of his cabin. He endured primitive facilities and bucketloads of frustration but, in the end, gained a brand-new cabin, expanded kitchen and walk-in shower — quite an improvement.
Letting go of marginal eating habits is certainly another area where the right attitude can see you through the rough patches. That and some really good recipes. Take fish, for instance. We all know how good fish is for our overall health. But when you're trying to pull some marginal fish eaters — or out-and-out fish haters — over to your way of thinking, a good attitude is only half the battle. The truly successful nudge comes via good cooking. This time of year, a healthy but flavorful fish stew might be just the ticket.
Perhaps you already have a good recipe on hand. But in the past few years, the culinary world has made a welcome return to basics and, in the process, expanded on the stew and chowder concepts. You'll find recipes calling for a wider selection of vegetables, from leeks to chilies, along with a demand for only the freshest and finest seafood ingredients.
For example, the most important consideration when assembling a superb fish stew is freshness. Fresh doesn't have to mean never frozen. But fresh does mean carefully and quickly handled between the time it is caught and enters your kitchen. At the seafood counter, scrutinize the product before purchase. Ask to smell it, and if there's even the slightest hint of fishiness, move on.
When you serve these special stews, play off their robustness. Keep the side-dish offerings simple and to the point: a crusty loaf of locally made French bread, a well-turned green salad with homemade dressing, some nice, regional, craft brews and a simple but elegant bottle of Oregon pinot or syrah.
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at email@example.com or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.