No one loved eating seafood more than our son, Ben Eder. Even more than he loved fishing, there was nothing that pleased him so much as to boil a pot full of Dungeness crabs, or quarter, marinate and grill loins of tuna that he had caught, or fillet fresh rockfish, and eat all of it that he could in a sitting..
At our kitchen table , as a young boy, he would painstakingly pick the crab from the shell, as his father had taught him, taking particular delight in using the point of the crab leg to dig meat out from the hard to get to spots. At that age, the hunt was as much fun as the eating, drawing the meat through the melted butter, savoring the taste. It was hard work , that eatin' crab, and hard work was something that Ben enjoyed his entire life.
Ben first acquired a taste for tuna, courtesy of Tom Shafer, a long time Newport fisherman who used to own the F/V Donna. In 1990, when Ben was 10, we were at a party at the Shafers, and Tom was barbecuing his famous tuna. He handed chunks of it off the grill to Ben and Ben hung out with Tom all evening. On the drive home Ben did nothing but rave about the taste, and wanted to know when I would make it for him. Id never cooked tuna before, but I soon learned. Later, as Ben began to fish regularly, he caught his own albacore, learned to quarter it, and developed his own secret marinade. I begged for the recipe, which he wouldn't divulge, but as I surreptitiously watched him, I discovered it had a lot to do with bottles of Yoshida sauce and a lot of garlic. There were half a dozen bottles in his cupboard in his apartment in Eugene, where he last lived.
Ben shared the bounty of the sea . His fellow students at Reed and many other friends were the beneficiaries of his largesse. Often he'd stash a couple of albacore in the freezer in the garage, then swing by and pick one up on his way to school. "I'm takin' some tuna, Mom!" I'd hear him yell. I heard stories that he'd defrost them in the bathtub. I believed it.
On the Fourth of July, I'd make a big pasta salad tossed with pounds of pink shrimp for our traditional picnic with Aunt Mary and family friends. Ben would devour plates of it. This year, the F/V Michele Ann had come in with a load of crab just in time to have some fresh-cooked for the party. Ben stood with me on our back deck , showed me how to grab the still-alive crab by their legs, close in to their body, so as not to get pinched, and slam them on the rail, so their backs would pop off and I could shake the guts out and then boil them. I had always cooked them whole, then cleaned them, but Ben taught me the "real way" to clean crabs.
And how he loved sushi. Some parents groan over their kids' bar tabs; Bob and I would sometimes roll our eyes at Ben's expensive appetites. We knew he had a table at Sada's on the bayfront , where he and his dear Phoebe and best friend Peter and brother Dylan and other friends ate regularly. Ben savored the freshness , the beauty and the delicacy of the presentation of each morsel. His t-shirt from Sada's was a favorite part of his wardrobe. Last summer he was thrilled to bring Sada live sidestripe prawns, that he had caught in traps in an experimental fishery, for Sada to prepare and serve. At home, he sat and painstakingly peeled these prawns by hand for he and his father and Dylan to cook together and enjoy.
Off to school this fall at the U of O , Ben did what he could to maintain a seafood diet. Though he lived in a studio apartment, he'd bought himself a half chest freezer for his tiny kitchen to store the rockfish, salmon, tuna and halibut he'd caught this past summer.. He had invested in a commercial vacuum sealer to preserve the freshness as best he could. Opening his freezer last week, I found some of his favorite specimens from the sea, as well. A couple of deep water tanner crabs, previously photographed sitting on his shoulders, and a couple of box crab were sandwiched in with ice cream and rockfish fillets. Ben's latest purchase was a Little Chief smoker, which he envisioned setting out and firing up on the narrow deck of his apartment house in Eugene.
Ben understood and enjoyed not only the health benefits of eating seafood, but relished every moment the experience of catching and providing food for others. "We feed people , Mom. That's what we do."
In Ben's spirit, and in the spirit of Rob Thompson, Jared Hamrick, and Steve Langlot, all aboard the F/V Nesika on December 11, 2001, and in honor of those who risk their lives daily to provide seafood for us all, please enjoy these recipes from the Newport Fishermen's Wives.
Published Newport News Times. January 16, 2002.