What in the World is a Fish Boil?
Cooking fish can be exciting


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Wisconsin's Door County

We visit Door County, Wisconsin
Lynn and I traveled by motorhome to Oshkosh, Wisconsin to attend a famous airshow that takes place every year — the EAA AirVenture. I had been wanting to see this particular airshow for many years. However, before going to Oshkosh, Lynn wanted to take me to Door County located north of Oshkosh. As it turned out, this would be one of many highlights of the trip leaving both of us with more wonderful memories.

For those who aren't familiar with this part of the country, Door County covers most of the peninsula on the east side of the state of Wisconsin. This little "thumb" of land is sandwiched between two bodies of water — Green Bay to the west and Lake Michigan on the east side. At one time, in our tour of the county, Green Bay could be seen on one side while at the same time the waters of Lake Michigan were in clear view on the other side. As a U.S. Navy veteran, I’m very used to seeing large expanses of salt water, but it took a while for me to get my head around the fact that all that water was fresh. Coming from Northern California, I thought that I hope Southern California doesn’t learn about all this fresh water because they might try to build a pipeline to tap into another water supply for all their swimming pools.

A beautiful little town in Door County

We found an RV campground on the Lake Michigan side of the county where we could live for a few of days. Our campsite provided us with a distant view of the lake.

Because we towed a car, this campground would give us a good place to launch our explorations each day. As we drove around the county, we would stop at various places of interest to take in the sights and take a few photos. The little towns and businesses look very much as if we were in New England. We visited several familiar looking stores and had lunch in a nice restaurant.

We arrived just in time for the
opening of the cherry season

We learned that this part of the country is known for its great cherries and we had arrived just at the beginning of the cherry season. As much as Lynn and I like fresh, ripe cherries, we took advantage of there being an ample supply allowing us to eat all we wanted during our visit. We also purchased a lot of Cherry based products, such as cherry salsa and cherry pie filling, to take home with us. One place where we bought cherries had a cherry spitting court. We saw two young boys trying to see who could outspit the other. It looked as if they were experienced at this questionable sport because they were able to propel a cherry pit farther than I thought possible (see photos page).

First time I heard of a fish boil

Upon entering the quaint little town of Fish Creek, we decided to walk around Founder's Square where a lot of historic buildings were located. There was one place that caught my eye because of a phrase I had never heard of before. The sign was in front of a restaurant named Pelletier's that offered something called a nightly "Fish Boil". I just thought it might be some special way fish was prepared in the restaurant kitchen. Once I saw that sign though, I started seeing other places that advertised that they had a "Fish Boil." This got me to wondering, “What the heck is a Fish Boil?”

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While Lynn was looking around a local gift shop, I explored the nearby area where I saw a log cabin. It appeared to be a very old structure, so I had to get a few photos of this historic looking building. While clicking off pictures I noticed smoke coming from behind the log cabin. I walked toward the smoke to see what was going on thinking that it probably was a big wood-fired grill maybe cooking racks of ribs. As I got closer to the source of the smoke, I could see two very large cooking pots.

Vegetables on the left with
fish cooking on the right

The thing I found interesting is that the pots had a good-sized wood-fire roaring beneath the bottom of the cooking vessels. The cooking pots looked very much like the cauldrons seen as typical devices for witches to brew up a magic potion. The wood used for the fire looked as if it might be what is left after the process of making wood shingles.

I would learn that what I had stumbled onto was in fact a fishboil in action. Of the two cauldrons, I was told that the one on my left was being used to boil vegetables like potatoes and carrots. The bubbling pot on my right was where the fish was boiling. As I looked at the two pots, I thought to myself that I don’t see anything exciting going on here. Watching food boil, even outdoors over a wood fire, is about as exciting as watching grass grow. I soon would get to see just how exciting a fishboil can be.

I was glad that I had accidently arrived at the fish boil site a bit early because I had a very good viewing position as a group of people gathered around to watch “the show.” Even though things seemed to be going slow, I stayed in place to be sure to have a great view for whatever people were assembling to watch.

Fish cauldron is getting ready to boil

One man seemed to be taking care of the fires under both cauldrons. The fire underneath each pot was, at times, confined by slabs of firewood that were leaned up against the cooking vessel. The intensity of the fire was adjusted by removing the slabs as the cooking process moved along. At one time it seemed as if the man in charge was just going to stand still and watch as the water came to a vigorous boil.

After a short time period, the man just stood back a bit while holding what looked like a big coffee-can or a large can that was originally used to hold canned fruit or vegetables. The can contained some kind of accelerant that when thrown on the fire under the pot, it caused a huge column of fire to engulf the cooking pot. This caused the water in the cooking pot to bubble vigorously until the water came up and overflowed the pot to kill the fire.Tthe man grabbed a bucket of water to douse any flams remaining. He and a co-worker then picked up the wire-basket of cooked fish and carried it away. I found this to be an unusual, but very interesting way to cook fish. Check out the video below. Be sure to have the sound turned on.



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