Ready for a fish story? While cruising through Alaska's Inside Passage, I visited a salmon hatchery in Ketchikan - the salmon capital of the world - and renewed my respect for these persistent and tasty creatures.
Though easy to prepare and extraordinary to taste, what is truly remarkable about salmon, I've discovered, is its life cycle. Completed against overwhelming odds by means not yet fully understood. Salmon start out in fresh water, migrate to salt water, and return to fresh water to spawn. Miraculously, salmon manage unerringly to return to the stream of their birth as many as five or six years later to lay and fertilize their eggs. The timing of this process is so precise that it can be predicted to within a few days, and variations of a week are considered extreme.
Just how salmon accomplish this incredible feat is unclear but scientists think it has something to do with their keen sense of smell. A salmon's snout is so sensitive it sniff out one drop of vermouth in half a million barrels of gin.
The first known record of salmon, a picture carved on a reindeer bone some 10 or 15 thousand years ago, was discovered in southern France. The ancient Romans, who stopped in France on their way to conquer Britain, first saw salmon vaulting in the Garonne River there and called the fish "the leaper." Our English word salmon is thus derived from the Latin 'salire' meaning "to leap."
Though our appetite for salmon may not be entirely healthy for the fish, it has been shown to be good for humans. Salmon is a source of omega-3 oils, which appear to have a role in thinning blood and preventing heart attacks. Regardless of species, salmon is delicious -- a fact I confirmed while cruising Alaskan waters. In an effort to get my share of over 800 pounds fish served daily on our ship, I sometimes ate salmon three times a day.
It seemed the least I could do considering all the trouble salmon go to to keep us supplied.