Write of Passage

Willett's Baltimore Transitions / Expressions

Willett .

Willett .
Baltimore, Maryland,
June 15
Write of Passage, Inc.
Willett Thomas is the President of Write of Passage, Inc., a 501(C)(3) communications, training, and publishing organization formed in 2010 to assist underserved artists and writers. She is also a freelance writer, writing in and about Baltimore. She recently relocated to the neighborhood of Greenmount, where the exterior shots of the HBO series, The Wire were filmed. She's pleased to report any rumored resemblances to the television series are greatly exaggerated. *** Like us at Facebook ;-) http://www.facebook.com/WriteofPassage

Editor’s Pick
MAY 30, 2010 1:31PM

Stranger Danger–Sure, but what's he got on the grill?

Rate: 19 Flag

My BBF (best Baltimore friend), Alexia --  she’s gregarious, brilliant, adventurous and beautiful, hardly the perfect wingman (wingperson?) for an extrovertedly challenged person like myself, but somehow it works – will spend Memorial Day weekend with some guy named Michael and another guy, the Michael guy’s friend, whose name will remain unknown to her until time of departure. 

“So where’d you meet this Michael,” I ask. They hadn’t met yet, not “officially,” she informs me.  She had been contacted only days before by a mutual friend about whether she’d be interested in crewing on his boat for the holiday weekend. His online request for an additional set of hands to haul, rig, mess with cleats and battens, all those things crews do to help captains successfully navigate the seven seas, received only one reply -- Alexia's.

They are actually scheduled to meet up with 15 other boats, participants in a Black sailing club, to sail from Fells Point in Baltimore to Chestertown on the Eastern Shore. But basically, the gathering is an opportunity for these sailing enthusiasts to spend a couple days socializing and reconnecting (in Alexia’s case, form initial contacts), with other like minded souls, to be capped off with a picnic, the highlight of which being an “everything but the kitchen sink” grillpalooza on Memorial Day.

I’m not so much for the picnicking aspects of picnics – ants, DEET underutilization, DEET overutilization, keeping watch over perishables, keeping an eye out for small children not related to me, but seemingly invisible to their parents, athletic outdoorsy types chiding me for being more than a little content to nurse Mike’s Hard Lemonades and play Scrabble rather than excitedly chasing down softballs under a baking sun.  Who needs it?

But at hearing the word grill, my mind quickly goes from “Oh, my God, my new BBF of only six months is going to end up the subject of an 48 Hours episode,” to “Yeah, they’re gonna want to do a ground chuck, 80/20, prime ground sirloin mix, then once the grills are fired up, going good, plop those babies down, four minutes on side one, two on the flip, grill marks charred, but not branded; then finish off with toppings to include, but limited to: grilled onions, mushrooms, red and green bells, oh and, banana peppers (if someone’s really on the job); then the buns, brushed liberally with a coating of olive oil and clarified butter, toasted crisp, not burnt. Yum... Now, that’s a party in the mouth worth RSVPing.”

“So,” I ask casually, no longer as preoccupied with Alexia’s imminent kidnapping and/or 48 Hours segment, “what’s going on the grill?” 

“I have no idea,” she answers, “Michael’s a vegetarian.”

Just that fast, my grill fantasy goes from me smelling the aromas, hearing the sizzle, taking that first bit, to the laundry list of things I need to get done before the start of the new work week.

Frankly, I haven’t had a good burger since Oprah had her brouhaha with the cattlemen and signed off beef forever. (I’m not 100 percent certain this was actually a “true swearing off.) Not to mention Mad Cow. Between Oprah and Mad Cow, burger fantasies are all I have left.  To be sure, my moo imaginings are freeing, allowing me to go there without actually having to remember the 8 USDA Grades of Beef: Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner, or having to be mindful of store and lot numbers for when the next beef recall is issued.

Alexia, an avowed meat eater, is giggly at the thought of exploring the idea of learning more about vegetarianism.  I say she’s giggly about the prospect of learning more about a certain aforementioned vegetarian.  And well she should be I assure her, reminding her not to forget to send a “this is where I’m going…and who I’m going with… if you don’t hear from me,” email to several people before sailing off for the holiday.  

I, on the other hand, will spend Memorial Day sweeping up the boatload of blackberries from my neighborhood’s overgrowth now listing over onto and dotting my back deck like tiny black grenades. This done, I will drag out and fire up old Hanna hibachi and burn me some burgers. But in keeping with my allegiance to Oprah’s vow never to eat beef again, and my own efforts not to be an odds on favorite to be felled by Mad Cow, instead of beef burgers, I will mix up a batch of my mother’s salmon burgers, a recipe she’s been crowing about (and deservedly so) forever.    

Salmon Burger


Serves: 4

·        1 1/2 pounds salmon

·        4 good size scallops

·        2 teaspoons mayonnaise

·        1/2 cup bread crumbs

·        ½ tablespoon of chili powder

·        ¼ cup of green peppers

·        ¼ cup of red peppers

·        2 green scallions, sliced thinly

·        Salt and black pepper to taste

·        2 tablespoons oil

  1. Cut the salmon into large chunks.
  2. Place a half of the salmon into food processor along with scallops; include mayo, chopped red and green peppers, scallions until smoothly blended.  
  3. Add the set aside chopped finely chopped salmon and bread crumbs, salt and pepper and mix until incorporated.  Form into four patties.  Place in refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.
  4. Place oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat to medium-high, cooking burgers two to three minutes on side. Serve on toasted buns with condiments of your choice.





Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Oh, lordy! Call me "Pavlov's Dog"!! This sounded so good, i wished I had every ingredient!
I was off beef before the ruckus over Oprah and the cattle industry. I'd seen one too many feedlots, and knew no animal put into such a purgatory of diseased thinking could be healthy enough for safe food to be made from its carcass. I also had a neighbor once who worked at one of those places. While he bathed regularly, keep this clothes laundered, the strong smell of feedlot was always around whenever he was. Disturbing.
Let's have salmon instead!--the wilder the fish, the better. ~R~
My bad!--that should read "kept"

PS Your friend seems to me to be risking her safety along with your peace of mind. Best wishes for a good outcome.
@PW -- I'll put a burger on the grill for you. Just let me know your libation of choice LOL
@PW again -- Alexia is new fashion womanhood at its best. Funny, if she was a guy, I wouldn't think twice about her doing this, but she's not, and she'll be fine.
Yumm. Salmon burgers. Will try this recipe soon!
I love salmon in any form and your recipe looks delicious! However, I was born and reared in Texas, so occasionally I eat beef. Only occasionally because I really didn't eat much of it growing up. It was our cash crop, so we ate mostle free range chickens, turkeys, ducks, and the pigs we raised for slaughter. I still prefer poultry, fish, and pork to beef.

As for your friend leaving information, I gave my best friend all of the pertinent information before she dropped me off to spend Thanksgiving with this guy in Detroit who I knew was nuts but felt sorry for and wanted to spend the holiday with because I thought it might help ease his pain. He turned out to be crazier than I thought, although I was never in any danger, just freaked out. Good thing I wasn't in danger because my bff lost the information I gave her at her girlfriend's house somewhere and couldn't remember where she dropped me off! I pray she's safe and that she has a great time learning to be a vegetarian. Rated
@FTD -- I hope you're working on a memoir because I'm definitely at the front of the line to get a copy.
Salmon burgers? I MUST try this recipe! Your mom sounds like a genius and a tastemaker!

As a single girl for the past few years, I usually get invited to a cookout or ten over the summer. I have no shame in my game, either. I will freely pester the crap out of my friends on Facebook to hook me up with their grills. I do eat burgers, but my preference is for grilled veggies of every stripe--especially zucchini and sweet peppers.

I love that our charming city of Bmore has a lot of grill aficionados and people who will let us sponge off them for a case of beer or dessert.
@Kat -- I was just talking to a friend in Atlanta, telling him about B'more bbqing. Seems like there's not even space to walk on the sidewalks with everyone firing up hibachis as if their lives depended on it.

Great going on your EP posts of late. I think your story really resonates with so many these days. Also, don't be so down on yourself. There's nothing wrong with having a little "junk in the trunk."
Now that's a classy burger ! ~R~
I like your style and I love salmon!
@Lucy -- Thanks. I love your photos. I wish my mom had been the type to hold on to our family artifacts.
Salmon is my husband's favorite and I've become a sunshine fan. The only salmon I like so far is cajan seasoned. I'll give this a try. Hope things go well for your BBF. I've known a few weird vegetarians...not to resume your worries...just saying
I don't think I've ever heard, seen, smelled a samon burger, and I think that might be shameful. Loved your story, and really intrigued by this recipe! can't wait to try it.
This cracked me up: "DEET underutilization, DEET overutilization, keeping watch over perishables, keeping an eye out for small children not related to me, but seemingly invisible to their parents", and that is a fantastic looking salmon burger!
That fishfryburger looked pretty good butt, there's something you have to(click on it)

Alexia here. Love my new BFF Willett. She told me recently I feel like her sister. Later that evening I wept. Yeah, girl you touched my craving spirit. ditto back to you. And congrats on the EPs. Love your topics and the way you share them.

Took the trip and I'm back safe and sound. Yes, I'm a gregarious type. Life's too short for too much caution. The vegan boat Captain was extraordinary. More well-rounded than most. A fabulous sailer, a wonderful musicologist with broad interests - 155 days worth of music on that ipod with no repeats, - a fantastic cook, and he is another woman's man as much as that free spirit can belong to some other. She wasn't on the trip but his friend, Billy, was. We three had a great time.

My plans to be a bough bunny, lazily lapping up sun and surf went right out of my head early since this 30 footer required all hands at work doing something that had to do with a safe round trip vacation.

Grab the jib lines, pull. Ah, where's the jib line? The green one. Got it and I'm pullin. The goal was to get the jib sheet up the pole and flapping in the wind. But I may as well have been a 3 year-old. No hand strength. My stomach muscles tightened automatically giving me a little more energy on the pull. That's a good thing. But where the hell did my upper body strength go? I don't seem to have any. The thought of blistered and bleeding hands crossed my mind and I didn't like it. Got nobody to hold them now while they're nice and soft. Whose going to want to caress a crab claw? Crab lovers I guess.
Anyway, I keep pulling. Then... Let me say outside of the Penn Relays broad jump events I've never actually seen a human being leap in real life before . But Captain Cook leapt. While I was struggling to get that sail up one quarter inch at a time, the wind demanded I move a lot faster. In what seemed like one move, Captain Cook leapt from the bough to midship where I was, grabbed the jib line, yanked it, hauled that sail up the pole, got it securely cleated, yelled a satisfied "yes" and merrily hopped down into the cabin to stir up dinner.

I could hardly blink. I felt guilty for showing early stages of useless on a ship that needed all 3 of us alert.

Though serious when barking orders that had to do with safety, he remained even keeled in a beautiful attitude for 3 lovely days. In fact, he had me at the helm for 3 hrs straight. I brought the sailboat into the harbor. In the 1st hour I felt panicky, wanting to turn the tiller over to Bill but I tamped down the panic within and called on the wind and sailing Gods to keep me in check. I went off course a few times and Captain yelled "stay at 12 o'clock. Not five of, not five after and right now you're at 1:30!" To help me (us) out he programmed a Garmin marine navigation gps and hung it around my neck. "See that triangle and that line? The line's our course. The triangle is us. Just keep us on the line." Yessir Captn.

Took me a minute but I caught on.

ONe of the dinners he prepared was couscous heightened with leeks, marinated portobello mushrooms, spices and the flavors of someone whose absolute love of cooking you can't find on a shelf.
It was wonderfully filling. All 5 meals he prepared were like that.

Breakfast on day 2 was scrambled eggs enhanced with chopped leeks, mushrooms, spinach and spices. Home fries made with redskinned potatoes and Gimmee Lean soy bacon. Fabo. Ate around 10 am and at 4 still wasn't hungry when he was throwing
soy dogs and veggie paddies on the grill for the partying people. While there was the usual chicken, meatburgers and hotdogs others brought to the picnic, Captain Cooks offerings were the first to go.

My take aways from this sojourn were 1. I need to build my upper body strength, 2. I don't need to eat meat. 3. Continue to be me.
I love you Willett. Better than a sister.
@Alexia -- gregarious, brilliant, adventurous and beautiful, these words don't do you justice. Glad you're back relaxed, safe and sound in B'more. If this hadn't been the case, I would have had to track me down some sailing vegetarian for sure. Thanks for the great update post/comment!
MMMMM....I am trying it for SURE!!!! I have been looking for a beef burger substitute, and am really scared of ground turkey. I have had to give up beef recently due to two sugeries that have left me unable eat any of my favorties without being ill for days. Now I don't feel so bad. Thanks! And, great writing. Until I had to almost become one, my "line" was "never trust a vegetarian."
It's too late, but - AAUGHH! Whyever would you do that to salmon? Just divide it up into burger sized pieces and grill - MUCH better!

(From the West Coast of Canada, where we know a thing or two about salmon)
@Marc -- Duly noted. Also, I can't tell my mother a thing about cooking, but I'll try it your way, which also sound good.