Oklahoma: the twins and their shad roe
Speaking of growing up, there are few things more awe-inspiring than a pair of adult identical twins—specifically, a vivacious pair of 58-year-old identical twins named Tina and Toni, the latter being my mother. I was lucky enough to have dinner with this pair last night, along with their vivacious mother, my grandmother. Together we were (of course) vivacious, three generations of Mack women. What better cause for a toast?
It was a belated birthday celebration for the twins, a feast of shad roe. The American shad is a member of the herring family and one of the boniest fish around, but we don’t waste time with the flesh: we go straight for the roe. Shad are usually caught in the springtime, when they are migrating from the sea to freshwater to spawn. Their roe is highly prized in the Chesapeake Bay region, where spring is essentially synonymous with shad roe. When the twins were growing up in Maryland, my grandmother (whom I call Nan, Nanny, or Nanzer) would occasionally treat her family of nine to this sautéed delicacy during the brief months of its annual season. They’ve been hooked from early on.
This spring, an "inside source" of Mom’s had a hefty package of shad roe shipped to her, direct from the fishermen in Maryland, as a surprise. She generously shared some with this inside source, and then she tucked the rest away in the freezer for safekeeping. So last night, with a pan of bacon snapping and popping in the background, Tina, Nanny, and I watched eagerly as Mom carefully washed and dried the slender, slightly wrinkled, and horrifyingly ugly egg sacs. "It’s like caviar in spring," Tina told me. "Like saltwater," Mom chimed in. She cooked the roe in bacon fat and foamy butter, then served it with a hearty squeeze of lemon and a strip of crisp bacon. We ate it with roasted asparagus and warmish Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled and tossed with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and fresh dill. Alongside, we guzzled a very tasty Chehalem Chardonnay from Oregon. The twins moaned. And then, after candles and song, we dug into the far-from-disaster cake, imported from Seattle and only slightly misshapen. There was more moaning all around, punctuated by the high-pitched scream of forks scraping ceramic plates. Even Nanny, whose appetite has waned over the years, managed to finish her slice. For the occasion, I wore dirty hair and an oversized Act Up "SILENCE=DEATH" sweatshirt I found in a drawer in my old bedroom, a remnant of my early teens grunge-and-politics wardrobe.
Happy birthday, twins.