Talk and table Summer guest: Kathryn Schipper

Talk and table, a recipe for Kathryn Schipper

 picture: Kathryn Schipper

Spring 2013 I posted an interview with Judith Works on my blog. I had  invited Judith  to participate in “geprekken en gerechten” (baptized talk and table by my friend Frances Mayes)  Judith was so thrilled by the recipe she got rewarded, that she suggested me to invite Kathryn Schipper. Kathryn is one of the travel belles and a writer. She will fit in. Maybe she can tell about her travels. Let’s see if we can conceive a dish for Kathryn from the answers she gives to my virtual questions.Needless to say that this willl be an dish  full of travel and anecdotes.

Who is Kathryn? Tell me some more
I am a third-generation Northwesterner and grew up fishing, camping, sailing and hiking in our beautiful region. My family’s roots in western North America go back a couple of additional generations; My great-grandmother used to tell me stories about being a telephone operator in the Klondike during the 1898 Gold Rush, and my grandmother on the other side came from a family that founded one of the first businesses in Vancouver, B. C., also in the 1890s.
How did your attraction for travel start? 
It’s probably genetic! I have an ancestor who was a sailor on a Chilean windjammer, another who was bored living in the Midwest and went off alone to the Klondike as I mentioned. My parents took me places from the time I was very young. I remember waking up on a train in Mexico when I was six years old and seeing a woman at the station selling bananas.
You are a writer. Can you tell something about it?
 I’ve always enjoyed writing but didn’t do it much until I went to work for Boeing as a technical writer when I was in my 20s. Many of my co-workers were former journalists and I found I really liked working with them, learning from them and the process of writing regularly.  As an attorney (I’m licensed but was never interested in practicing law) I was accustomed to writing on short deadlines and in well-defined formats, so that carried over easily into technical writing, and into the blogging and tweeting I do now. I love the challenge of being simultaneously creative and succinct!
You live in the North West of the USA, can you tell us about this region?
It’s spectacularly beautiful, reminiscent of New Zealand or Norway. It’s famous for being rainy, although it’s constant light mist rather than tropical downpours. In the summer it’s dry and endlessly sunny, with pleasant temperatures, little humidity and lingering daylight due to the northerly location: The sun rises at about 5:00 AM and sets after 9:00 PM. Winter, on the other hand, is beyond dreary: The sun rises at 8:00AM  and sets at 4:30 PM, but that’s only if you can see it! It’s never bitterly cold like Chicago, but it’s perpetual overcast and drizzle. People here are noted for technical and engineering expertise (Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon were all founded in Seattle) and many attribute that to the long, dark winters when it’s difficult to do much outdoors. It certainly gives me time to write!
What is your favorite type of country?
Perhaps because of winters here, I’m drawn to places that are warm and sunny! But I don’t like to lie on the beach doing nothing: I like places with interesting scenery and cultural/intellectual life. I’m especially fond of Italy, Spain, France (particularly Provence), Hong Kong and Bali.
Which landscape do you like the most and which one you dislike? I am very curious about that.
I’ve seen few places more beautiful than the Northwest (and nearby regions such as British Columbia and southern Alaska): Jagged green mountains plunging into an intricate network of waterways. I was surprised at how much Hong Kong and the surrounding islands resembled my home except of course the mountains there aren’t snowy. Having lived all my life in mountainous terrain I feel uncomfortable in places that are flat. I once went bird watching in Texas and couldn’t understand why I felt uneasy; I finally realized that I was disoriented because there was nothing on the horizon. I’ve also been boating all my life and love the sea; I dislike being far from it. I live on an island now and commute to work by ferry.
I understand you travel a lot, what was your most striking moment?
If I could live any 24-hour period other than my wedding day over again it would be the day in Tahiti that my husband and I went snorkeling in the morning through a rainbow canyon of coral and swirling tropical fish, in absolutely transparent bath-warm water. We then were served a banquet of luscious tropical fruit and fish, including my favorite dish in the world, poisson cru. Late that night as our cruise ship was moving to another island, I sat alone on the deck looking at the stars of the Southern Hemisphere, something I’d dreamed of doing since I was a child. It was as though everything I loved was rolled up together, and how I imagine Heaven must feel.
What are the biggest challenges for you to overcome during your travels? 
I’m a bit shy and sometimes nervous to talk to local people, especially when there’s a language barrier. I don’t sleep well and suffer badly from jet lag; I hate losing travel days to feeling tired. I’m also frustrated because I’m a great nature lover and badly want to visit Madagascar, Borneo and New Guinea. Malaria is present in all of those places and I am afraid of taking antimalarial medication because I’ve heard awful stories about the side effects. I’ll eventually get my courage up, though!
On food, which food do you like and which you would never eat?
 I adore all kinds of fruit, especially tropical, and virtually anything that comes from the sea. There’s a large Asian population in the Northwest and like most people here I eat a lot of sushi, Vietnamese and Thai food.I also have a sweet tooth, especially for ice cream!  There aren’t many things I’d say I would never eat. Certainly never anything endangered like turtle. I loathe very idea of organ meats like sweetbreads, and liver, with the exception of pâté, I suppose because in that dish the texture and flavor are disguised by the grinding and the spices.
Which wines do you like?
Champagne!!!! I love the crisp, mineral taste and the fact that it goes well with seafood.  I also like Viognier and Sancerre. On the red side, I don’t believe in doing anything by halves; the richer and heavier the better. I like Bordeaux, the Syrahs grown here in the Northwest, and Brunello de Montipulciano.
Can you tell me something about your “foodprint” A lot of food is wasted in the Western world?
 Couldn’t agree more. We’re lucky enough to have access to excellent farmers’ markets here in the summer, with locally grown berries, other fruits and vegetables. We try to get all of our produce there during the season. Unfortunately, due to our climate if you tried to eat exclusively local produce in the winter you’d be gnawing on pine needles, so we do buy produce from California at that time of year. I also have to admit that by late winter when I’m about to go mad from the dreary weather and can’t bear to look at another elderly apple, I’ll indulge in “summer” fruits flown up from Chile. But I try to keep that to a minimum. On the protein side, my husband and I are by no means vegetarians but we don’t eat much red meat, partly because of the abysmal farming practices of American agribusiness. Again, we’re fortunate because our island has several farmers raising beef and pork sustainably and making their own cheese – we try to buy from them. Locally-caught salmon and halibut are available year-round here and we get ours from an island fishmonger.
What else do you want to tell?
Come visit the Northwest, it’s beautiful!

In a glance, just by reading Kathryn’s answers and her love of seafood and spices, I knew that it was going to be “boemboe Bali ikan” Spicy fish from Bali, as my mother used to make it. How to incorporate the Dutch touch? Not. This dish is Dutch enough. Served with French haricot beans and rice. To pair a Viognier wine. Maybe one from the North West, the region she likes so much.


2 lbs mackerel or other fish
3 red onions
3 garl;ic cloves
2 red Spanisch peppers
1 tsp shrimp paste (trassie)
1 tsp tamarind paste (asem)
1/2 tsp laos (thai ginger powder)
3 bay leaves
1 stem of lemon grass
1 short piece of ginger
lemon juice
1 tbs cane sugar
salt and pepper
1/2 tin tomato paste


Preheat the oil.  Fry the fish for a short time. Leave to rest on a plate. In a mortar crunch the garlic, finely chopped Spanish pepper, shrimp paste, tamarind paste, ginger into a blend, called a boemboe.. Chop the onions fine. In the heated oil fry the onions, put in the paste from the mortar, add the tomato paste, lemon juice, lemon grass, bay leaves, cane sugar and laos. Bring to a boil . Add the water and fried fish. Leave to simmer for another ten minutes. be cautious not to stir too much, to prevent the fish from falling apart. Season with some salt and pepper. Cook some rice and fresh haricot beans to pair the dish.

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