An ahi moment
In historic Lunnenberg, we catch up with tall ships at anchor and fling open the doors to our senses.
There’s a chorus of gulls.
Salt in the sea-moistened air.
Dense clusters of clammed-up mussels anchored by their whiskers to wooden docks at low tide.
And, there is colour.
Along a shore that rises into a gently sloped amphitheatre over the Atlantic, a prism of houses and shops seems to be the creation of a master pastry chef.
A fairytale town created from painted sugar cookies, where a kitchen store called Cilantro is green, to go with its name.
Where a trattoria seems to take its inspiration from nectarines and cream and an optometrist’s clinic is wild with the colour of strawberries.
For every blue and purple, for every yellow, red, green or aquamarine, there is a natural reference that comes from beach pebbles, wildflowers, sea ice and sand-washed shards of sea glass.
From tree, vine and cane fruits.
From fish scales and heron feathers.
Leafy green sprigs and red red mud.
Back at home, our house is a dove-soft grey and colour sprouts from seasonal planters, taken down in winter, a subtle backdrop that, until now, I was certain I preferred.
Until now, I’ve never supposed I might want to live in a purple house, although suddenly, I can see myself through the kitchen window of a grape-juice sided two-storey, stirring batter to go with wild raspberries that seem to grow along every path-side thicket in Nova Scotia.
I take 100 pictures.
I take 100 more.
Then, on the docks of this iconic town, we stop for a patio lunch of battered haddock and chips, intended to ease my way into an intention of turning a lifelong seafood aversion into a passion.
This week, I plan to work my way all the way up to staring down a lobster.
After scooping flakes of fish out of a heavy cocoon of batter, however, I’m no farther along.
And, when we say farewell to what is surely the most picture-perfect town in the entire world, I leave it wondering whether the trattoria might have been the better choice.
In Halifax the following morning, we board a boat and set off to watch for whales that do not, this day, decide to watch back.
We know they’re there, however.
And, somehow, just being on the surface of their world helps us better value the depths beneath.
After watching comes a late lunch and, having so far failed to have a seafood moment, we walk up and down the docks and finally choose another ocean-view patio.
We order crab cakes, smoked Atlantic salmon and seared-rare ahi tuna encrusted with cracked black pepper and fragrant spices, sliced thin and served on a tomato bun.
With one bite, as the flesh yields to the soft pressure of my tongue, I have what I can only describe as
a conversion experience.
If seared-rare ahi tuna were my last meal, I would leave this world wanting nothing else to eat.
On the seafood adventurist’s scale, it’s not yet lobster, I know.
Or even mussels or raw oysters, which are also on my list.
But, for now, as we dip our forks into the ocean, there is nothing but time ahead of us.
A week’s worth of diving deeper into the ocean of food that surrounds us.
Seared-red ahi tuna
1 1/2 pound centre-cut Ahi tuna fillet (line-caught)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 1/2 tbsp. coarse black pepper, freshly ground
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Combine spices and spread out on a plate. Roll fillet in spices, pressing gently.
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Sear tuna on all sides and remove from heat. Let rest five minutes.
To serve, slice thinly using a very sharp slicing or sushi knife. Serve as an appetizer with slices of baguette, or pile slices onto tomato buns (or other artisan rolls), with mayonnaise, sliced ripe tomatoes and baby lettuce.
Darcie Hossack is a food writer and author of Mennonites Don’t Dance. For past recipes, go here. She can be contacted at email@example.com.