Men and Fire: Door County Fish Boil



Men have a peculiar relationship with fire. Something that harkens back to the primeval days of rubbing sticks together and grunting “Fire friend!” Just get two or three of us together with a grill or a cord of wood and some matches and watch the serious discussion of fire lighting theory and the subsequent quest for fire. I don’t think we used enough lighter fluid. Just. One. Squirt. More! Aye, now there’s a blaze. No, wait. Just another squirt.

Door County has taken this penchant for pyromania and channeled it into a traditional meal: the Fish Boil. Not an affliction but a culinary event with pyrotechnics. Back in the logging/fishing days when it was necessary to feed large groups of men returning from work, a method was needed for cooking copious amounts of cod. (OK, not cod, but it sounded better than whitefish which was worthless with alliteration.) New potatoes and sweet onions were tossed into a large pot of boiling water over a wood fire. Then a basket of whitefish steaks was lowered in to cook. The oils from the fish would boil out and give the steaks a mild flavor. It could have ended there, but they needed a fine way to get that oil off the surface of the water before pulling the basket up through it. What better way than to throw a bucket of kerosene on the flames? I can think of none. And so they did, and so the entire kettle was engulfed in a ball of flames and so the water boiled over taking the offending oils with it. Crazy, huh? It’s still done this way and it still draws crowds for the big fire and the delicious results drizzled with melted butter.

I had my eyebrows burnt off at Square Rigger Galley in Jacksonport with a lovely view of Lake Michigan. But there are several other good places as well. Go to my website to find locations for Door County fish boils.

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