Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fishes and Fishermen: Divine Mercy at Breakfast

Like my mother, I particularly love the readings from the gospels and Acts that we get this week. Hearing stories from Acts--especially with Holy Week still a recent memory--stuns me with the awareness of the apostles’ transformation after Christ’s resurrection. It is exciting watching them; men who cowered while Jesus was being put to death, suddenly intrepid in the face of all the powers that be. It is immediately apparent that the Lord is with them—and in them. When I read about the apostles and Peter standing up to the Sanhedrin, it’s hard not to feel like I’m watching a movie where the good guys have finally gained the upper hand. St. Peter is front and center in many of these passages, and it is beautiful to see the maturation of his personality in his relationship with Christ. Here is this impetuous, hot-headed guy, with the limitations of his temperament, but he sincerely loves his Lord. He loves Him so much that when the Lord first appears to him on the shore of Tiberias, he doesn’t let his shame get in the way. The last time he saw Jesus was before His Passion, and only shortly before that, he had denied Him and wept. But when he realizes it is Jesus on the shore, he leaps up and rushes to his side, totally undaunted by his own failure and limitation. This is the greatness of Peter! His own weakness does not prevent him from knowing the truth and running after it. The Lord takes him, knowing all his imperfections, and yet loving him in all of them; making him the rock of His Church. It is such a reminder to me, especially in the light of the Divine Mercy we just celebrated, and in anticipation of the Ascension and Pentecost.

It is also wonderful being reminded that these ordinary men were fisherman: we have had readings about fish and fishing all week, and we’ll come back to the gospel reading my mother referenced this Sunday (John 21: 1-19). We see this in an obvious way at the beginning of John 21. We can imagine the strangeness that Christ’s rising must have engendered: it is an exciting time, but also an uncertain one. The apostles are all waiting around, not knowing what to do with themselves; hoping they will see Him again, but not knowing if. So: what does a good fisherman do in a time like this? He does what he’s used to doing—he goes fishing! And some of the guys go with him. The rest is history. It’s beautiful seeing the tenderness of Christ in this episode, the way He shows up where they are, in all its “regular life” capacity, making their fishing experience wholly new. Like at the very beginning of their history with Him, He grants them a miraculous catch. But not only does he make them catch the fish, he cooks it for them. Before His death He washed their feet, and now He prepares their meals.

The “foodie” in me can’t help but think about the breakfast they have with Jesus. Fish? For breakfast? I know it is common in some places, but it is a bit much for my taste. I remember being surprised, in fact, while in the Holy Land, that our breakfast included strong tasting- foods like olives. If you’re not quite ready for the real, grilled, thing, here is a recipe for gravlax that may ease the transition…(you can also have it at other times of day!)

GRAVLAX (Scandinavian pickled salmon)
2 lb fresh salmon w/skin on, cut into 2 fillets from the central (thickest) part of the fish
½ cup sugar
¼ cup salt
1 TB spoon coriander seeds, crushed
1 TB spoon white peppercorns, crushed
1 bunch fresh dill, coarsely chopped
¼ cup vodka

Mix salt, sugar and crushed spices.
Place a large piece of plastic wrap in a rectangular glass baking dish.
Place one fillet on center of plastic wrap and cover with spice mix, rubbing gently. Put spice mix also on second fillet.
Cover first fillet with chopped dill, pour vodka on top, and cover with second fillet.
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
Put a small dish or small cutting board over the fish and place a heavy weight on top.
Refrigerate for 3 days, turning the wrapped fish over every 12 hours, and putting back the weight on top.
On forth day scrape off gently the spices and dill from fillets and slice very thinly.
It can be served on crackers, or toasted bread (great if you cream a ripe avocado with some lime juice and spread it on the toasted bread putting a slice of fish on top). Any un-sliced leftover fish keeps for a few days in the refrigerator.


  1. What is the function of vodka? Can this be done without it?

  2. The alcohol is what cures the salmon. While you could use another kind of alcohol, if you eliminated it entirely I don't think this could work. (I wish I knew more about chemistry to explain!)

  3. Thanks for the explanation! And I presume vodka is the best choice, as it does not have much of its own taste...