By HILARY KOCH
For the Daily News
My job as the Ketchikan Public Library’s outreach librarian takes me into the reading lives of many people in Ketchikan. I remember years ago, when cooking was not much of a priority for me, visiting Dorothy Sadlier and wondering why on earth she would want to check out cookbooks when she no longer was able to cook.
I asked her about it and she said she just liked to read them. How odd, I thought.
Now I am older (and maybe a teeny bit wiser) and my culinary tastes have matured and improved. I have grown a bit bored with years of cooking dinners and find myself seeking out new and exciting recipes to experiment with.
New cookbooks abound at the public library, but “The Fishes & Dishes Cookbook: Seafood Recipes and Salty Stories from Alaska’s Commercial Fisherwomen” really stands out for me.
This is simply a good book to read. Written by fisherwomen and cooks (among other things) Tomi Marsh, Kiyo Marsh and Laura Cooper, this book is a unique seafood cookbook full of creative recipes and amazing tales of adventure.
If you are local, then you will love recognizing stories about fisherwomen you know and reading about familiar places, and if you are unfamiliar with our people and fisheries, you surely will love the tales of adventure, the portrayal of Alaska and the recipes for the bounty our waters provide.
Every page has a either a color photograph or a collage image by co-author Laura Cooper. Each chapter begins with a story about life in the fisheries, and they all are written by women.
The first story is about the history of Tomi Marsh’s tender The F/V Savage in Brooklyn, N.Y., while others give a history of Dutch Harbor and talk about “the lure of the catch.” There is a salmon primer to explain the anadromous salmon and identify differences between the types of salmon.
Another helpful page explains the difference between the types of Alaska fisheries, the terms used and tips, such as how to clean and cook a crab or a geoduck, and how to make a basic fish brine. One of my favorite stories explains the terms buoy balls — as opposed to just plain old balls — and there is even a bit of poetry in the book, too.
The recipes in “The Fishes and Dishes Cookbook” are pretty great, too. My one complaint is that some of the ingredients might be a bit unusual and hard to find for your average Ketchikan cook on a budget, but the dishes I tried were absolutely delicious.
I highly recommend the jade dumplings, but wish there had been a bit of an explanation on how to “pleat the won tons.” Mine looked a bit wacky, but tasted great.
The smoked salmon pizza was pretty good and I’m about to make grilled salmon with cilantro and lime.
“The Fishes and Dishes Cookbook” is great for cooks and noncooks alike. The Ketchikan Public Library has shelves of great cookbooks, and this one will be available to check out just as soon as I’ve finished my dinner.