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The Parable of The Catfish

27 Jul

 

 

 

2017-07-27 11_19_13-ancient japanese fisherman - Google Search

 

Greetings, Fellow Catfish Enthusiasts, 

The young boy of ten sat on the side of the lake, cane pole in hand, with cork floating on the water and a brown cricket submerged on the hook.  The catfish had not been biting all summer, and he was the last, grave hope for success.  His father, mother, and his older brother and older sister, all usually phenomenal in the art of fishing, had been unable to coax the big cats out of the pond.  And after a sub-par corn harvest, hush puppies had been a scarce delicacy as well.  His four younger siblings had cried themselves to sleep all summer for lack of delicious catfish in their bellies.  

“If I don’t catch some catfish,” the young boy muttered, “we’ll all starve to death, for a family cannot subsist on vienna sausages alone.”  (And they were running dangerously low on those little cans, as well.)

He sat for a couple of hours and fished with no luck at all.  Peering down the bank of the pond a few yards, he noticed an elderly Japanese gentleman, also with his pole in the water.  Every so often, the pole would wiggle, the cork would go under, and the gentleman would snap it back up to show a big, beautiful catfish hooked on the line, which he would then pull to shore with ease.  The boy continued to watch, and the catfish continued to bite the line of the old man.  Dumbfounded, the boy watched the old man pull in four catfish in just a few minutes.  

He called to the old man, “Sir, excuse me, but how are you doing it?  I have the same pole and the same bait, but I’m catching nothing!  I have to know your secret, sir.  My family is starving!”

The old man called him closer.  “I will give you my secret, young man.  Each time I put my line out, I say a Catfish-inspired Haiku in order to curry favor with the Catfish gods:

Catfish slumbering,

No more rest under water,

You must attack bait!

I do this each time my line goes in, and each time, I pull out a hearty, beautiful catfish, which I take home, clean, rinse in whole milk, coat in cornmeal, and drop into my Bayou Fryer 700-701 with V-Channel technology.  

When the catfish has fried to a golden brown, I pop open an ice-cold Miller Lite and enjoy these wondrous gifts of the catfish gods along with a tasteful mix of classic and new music, my family, and maybe a couple of friends and neighbors if they’re around.  After the catfish has been consumed and we are full and content, we continue to revel in the celebration of these gifts until well After Dark.”

The boy nodded enthusiastically and returned to his spot.  It couldn’t hurt to try, he thought, although in his heart, he doubted the existence of catfish gods.  He closed his eyes and remembered Haiku structure: five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables.  Then he spoke:

“My family withers

’cause we can’t get no Catfish.

Hook me up, damnit!”

He baited his hook and tossed his line into the murky water…Nothing.  He tried again, and again nothing happened.  

He thought for a moment, then said aloud, “I don’t doubt you, Catfish Gods, c’mon.  I need a break here and I welcome you into my heart.  My poor, starving family is depending on me!”  Then he recited his Haiku again.

Just like that, BOOM!  He had a catfish, and a nice sized one at that!  He repeated his Haiku and put the line back in…BOOM!  Another one!  The old man smiled and nodded as he watched with pride.  The young man continued his new ritual all afternoon, and returned home a hero.  

His family invited over all of their friends and neighbors, one of whom worked for a Miller distributorship and provided all the Miller Lite the adults could drink.  And another whose cousin was a corn farmer who’d dropped off a big bag of cornmeal for breading and hush puppies.   The family was saved!

And what is the moral of this tale, you might ask?  

If you don’t write a Catfish-Inspired Haiku for the Fourteenth Annual Denver Catfish Festival, FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN WILL STARVE, AND IT WILL BE ALL YOUR FAULT.

We are accepting your submissions, all the way up until and including Catfish Festival Day!  What are you waiting for?  Fabulous prizes from the far corners of the Earth await the winners!

Sincerely,

Joe T., Chairman

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Prior Engagements

18 Jul
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I’ll try to make it, if I can just get to my keys…

************************

“I’m pretty sure I’m busy that day,” she replied, nervously twisting strands of her long hair around an index finger while casting her eyes about the room, searching for the quickest means of escape from the mounting flood of awkwardness that threatened to drown them both.

“But I haven’t even told you what day yet,” he pleaded, exasperation mounting, a wave of anxiety working its way up, up, up, from the deepest part of his fragile soul to the cold and blinding light of humiliation.

Greetings, Fellow Catfish Enthusiasts,

It has come to our attention that some of our less adventurous supporters may be questioning last Saturday’s decision by your Dear Chairman to select and publish a date for the 14th Annual Denver Catfish Festival within the jovial midst of a local brew fest.  

Please understand that your Chairman had been swept away in a malt and barley wave of cosmic, communal YES with tens of dozens of fellow beer likers, and decisions had to be made with the lightning speed of a catfish in pursuit of prey.  (Or grain, as the case may be with our farm-raised variety.)    

Thus, we have our date with Catfish Destiny and are beyond excited to share a splendid display of deep-fried deliciousness with our fellow Catfish devotees.

Also, today we would be remiss to continue with this pointless, rambling post without fondly remembering one of the exalted patron saints of the Denver Catfish Festival on what would have been his 80th birthday:

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Well spoken, sir.  

And so it goes with this year’s Denver Catfish Festival.  We’ve heard from many of our usual festivalgoers (even a Haiku Champion or two) that 7/29/17 is a date that just doesn’t work, due to goings on in Moab or Carbondale or Sante Fe or Chicago or the oft-cited “wedding out of town,” or for Soccer or Sawyer Brown (gross) or even for having to pilot an Airbus A310 from Denver to Milwaukee and back.

Wait…Soccer?  Don’t kids play soccer like 300 days a year?  In the years that follow, will you look back at this one, crucial game on 7/29/17 as the moment that pushed the needle over to a full-ride scholarship and acceptance to the USA World Cup team?  

And Piloting a jet?  Don’t those things basically fly themselves now?

But fret not, absentees; we shall raise a full glass and a golden fillet to you and yours, the no-shows whose souls must be trampled in the name of triumphant, beautiful, perfectly seasoned and prepared Fried Catfish and Hush Puppies.

And as for those festive, fortunate folks who have presented no viable excuses otherwise, we’ll see you at the Fourteenth Annual Denver Catfish Festival!

Sincerely,

Joe T., Chmn. 

7/29/17

16 Jul

It’s been decided. The latest iteration of the Denver Catfish mother effin Festival is July 29th, 2017.

The 13th Annual Denver Catfish Festival Wrap-up

24 Aug

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Greetings, Fellow Catfish Enthusiasts,

The 13th iteration of the Late Summer Classic is in the books, and what a great DCF it turned out to be.  We fried 25 pounds of Itta Bena, Mississippi’s finest farm-raised catfish and approximately seven pounds of hush puppies (that’s a LOT of hush puppies.)  We had a fried buffalo wing halftime show, cajun macaroni, baked beans (vegetarian, pork, and Louisiana-style,) pasta, cupcakes, fresh-picked raspberries, and myriad hors d’ oeuvres.

We had a surprisingly good teenage Phish cover trio, a first-time Haiku contest winner, a second-place Haiku ghost-writing scandal, and dear friends new and old from as far away as Houston and as close as next door.  We had a lot of first-time festival attendees as well as a great complement of Festival Elders on hand.

Starting at around 1:12 PM MDT, from my station in the Denver Catfish Festival kitchen, I get to see friends and spouses and coworkers and neighbors arrive via car or bicycle or on foot, all shaking hands or hugging and saying hello. Those from Louisiana comment on how much they like the catfish, which I’m always nervous about and relieved to hear, and those from parts further north who’ve never eaten catfish or even know what a hush puppy is talked in surprised voices about how much they like it.  Some of the guests only see each other at the Catfish Festival; others make plans to hang out long after the festival has ended.  There are people enjoying a smoky, delicious bourbon with their fried fillets, or those who have an ice cold beer and a hush puppy. Vodka tonics. Bourbon slush. Good tequila. Microbrews, macrobrews. Laughing, telling stories, drinking, eating, and more laughing.

From toddlers to teenagers, kids run through in groups; some are out on razor scooters, some on skateboards.  Sometimes they’re having water balloon fights, or they’re throwing a Frisbee, or trying to hula hoop, or getting their face wiped with a wet napkin by a mom or being told to get away from the fryer by a dad. They’re asking me where the catfish came from or why it’s called a hush puppy or when I’m going to fry another batch of corn dogs. They want to know where a bathroom is, or if they can have another Otter Pop, or if I have another soccer ball somewhere. Bathroom’s in the house, and have all the Otter Pops and Capri Suns you can handle. More of everything. This is the Denver Catfish Festival.

I always put together an eight-hour playlist for the day, an Official Soundtrack of The Denver Catfish Festival, and it’s a bit different every year.  Some songs are always there: Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell is a staple, because I love when somebody (and it’s always somebody different) walks up and says, “Is this Rhinestone Cowboy? I haven’t heard this since…”  I add a few songs called “Catfish” to the mix. Dash Rip Rock and Better than Ezra and a large dose of Radiators. Louisiana Leroux, Hank Williams, Zebra, Public Enemy, The Beatles, Naughty by Nature, The Hoodoo Gurus, Marvin Gaye, Silversun Pickups, The ‘Mats. It all just seems to work.

This year, the Festival happened to fall on what would have been my mom’s 76th birthday, so I made sure that I had a few of her trademark favorite songs on the list. Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Night and the Pips was one that a few people noticed; America by Neil Diamond got a huge response, and it choked me up. To think of how much my mom loved Neil (because she considered herself on a first-name basis with him) and to see all of these great folks singing one of his songs, that was a lot to take in. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my mom than with a big party, and although they didn’t know it, everybody was celebrating her with me.

Catfish Festival After Dark came and went as usual (maybe a bit more mellow than years past) with some good dancing, some bad dancing, and the requisite arguments over what song to play next. People went out to concerts or dinners or dates or to other events then came back to sit on the patio and hang out some more.

The Festival went very late into the night, as it always does, with just a few of us left in the garage (DCF Great Hall) surrounded by empty bottles and cans, the smell of cigarette butts, stale beer, and fryer oil in the air, hammering on an acoustic guitar and singing very bad renditions of Atomic Drawers songs and Guns & Roses songs and whatever else we could think of to play. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Vanessa and the girls gave their time and effort and enthusiasm; they are such gracious hosts and very patient partners.  Friends helped set up canopies and tables and hang lights.  They gave their valuable time and gear to make things better and easier.  I like to brag that I do it all, but that’s not really true.

So all of that and a thousand other memories and experiences are why I dig it so much.  If we’re being honest, it’s just a drunken fish fry that we have at our house, but I’ll be damned if I’ve found anything that comes close to a better way to spend a late summer Saturday.

Denver is a fun city with lots of options on a gloriously beautiful afternoon and evening. For those who were gracious enough to choose our little event and spend this past Saturday at our house, (oops, I mean The Denver Catfish Festival Chateau and Reflection Gardens,) instead of whatever else was going on that day, I really can’t express to you all how much we appreciate it.

In other words, thank you all for being in on the joke.  If you weren’t, it wouldn’t exist.

As the cleanup continues, I’m constantly reminded of how much I hate picking up cigarette butts (Winston smoker–I know who you are and will have my revenge.)

Let’s do it again next year.

Joe T., Chmn.

 

The Fryer’s Edge

15 Aug
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Frying Contraption, Immobile with Skinny Legs, It’s best you stay put.

Greetings, Fellow Catfish Enthusiasts, 

The final base camp of the climb offered the most foreboding glimpse of the summit yet.  As I set down my gear and brought my hood up to shield my weary head from the blowing snow, I paused for a moment to reflect.  

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Hongse, Home to the Mystical Headwaters of Mekong.

Here we were, the Bayou Fryer 700-701 and I, in China and attempting to reach the summit of Hongse, unclimbed peak of the Tibetan Plateau, home of the pure headwaters of the Mekong River, and spiritual Nirvana of which the lowland catfish chefs had reverently spoken:  

“Each flake of snow that falls upon Hongse is a single spirit of the universe who makes a decision to either become a part of the snowy peak, or to embark upon the long journey down from the Great Mountain to the Mekong River, eventually becoming a healthy, robust catfish suitable for frying.  

Or maybe pan-searing, depending upon the restaurant.”

But in addition to the snow blowing around my head and around Bayou Fryer’s heavy steel lid, a cloud hung over the expedition that both B.F. and I had avoided for days. As Chairman of The Denver Catfish Festival, I am charged with maintaining both my mental and physical attributes in apex condition at all times.  But these old bones have fried a lot of catfish, and carrying the 70-lb. Bayou Fryer from the Mekong Delta to the Roof of the World had taken its toll.  Plus, there really is no easy way to also carry five gallons of fryer oil and a full-sized propane tank in addition to that steel hulk of a fryer.  

I set up our tent while Bayou Fryer heated its oil for dinner preparation.  I dropped the last of my ration of boudin balls into its cavernous maw and watched the oil pop and sizzle as the boudin sunk, floated, and cooked to a delicious golden brown.  I sat down with my paper plate across from BF and, with every muscle searing in pain, delivered the news that I’d avoided for days. 

Big Bayou Fryer,

Mountain climbing is a bitch

With you on my back.

I had reached total physical exhaustion.  There would be no attempt for the summit of Hongse.   

The monthlong journey back to Denver and the Denver Catfish Festival Chateau and Reflection Gardens was a slow and silent one.  Traveling via mule, ship, and Vanagon, we hardly spoke; we knew we’d let each other down.  I had lacked the necessary physical strength and Bayou Fryer was too damned heavy.  We’d been so close to the summit, but in the end, the mountain had defeated us both.  Perhaps a younger Catfish Festival Chairman and maybe an aluminum Bayou Fryer would have stood a better chance against the unrelenting land of the Mekong Headwaters.  

**********

Months later while perusing a popular frying magazine, I came across the sight of a new product which took the breath from me.  I fumbled for my smart phone and found the item on Amazon, and yes, it was available there, and with Prime shipping!  I rejoiced as the confirmation screen popped up, then waited anxiously at the gates of the Chateau for its arrival.  

Three days later, rapture:

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Wheels & The Fryer Keep on Turnin’…

The Bayou Fryer 700-185 Fryer Cart!  

It holds the Bayou Fryer and its propane all in one modern, compact, stainless steel design!  With this new technology and our newfound mobility, we shall again follow the Mekong to its source on the summit of Hongse and, as a plus, be a much more mobile, quick-strike tactical frying operation.   But not until after…

The 2016 Denver Catfish Festival

8/20/16

FFHI 1:12 PM MDT

 

Catfish on August 20th, for a “Weird” Reason.

1 Aug

2016-07-27 06_23_17-Order Summary _ MakeStickers.com

Greetings, Fellow Catfish Enthusiasts,

We at 2016 Denver Catfish Festival Headquarters are getting as excited as ducks upon junebugs about the upcoming marriage of Cornmeal and Catfish, and are sure that you, the esteemed Festivalgoers, are giddy as well!

This will be the latest DCF in our storied history; the original date was to be August 6th, but forces beyond our control intervened and pushed us out a couple of weeks.

Back in March, your Dear Chairman’s youngest princess made a request.

“Dear Chairman, if my all-time favorite performer ever graces a stage in the Denver area, will you accompany me?”

“Of course, my little tadpole.  Anything for you.”

Imagine my surprise when, several months later and after we’d decided on August 6th for our date, an announcement was made that would change the trajectory of the 2016 Denver Catfish Festival:

I received an alert that my girl’s Sinatra, her John, Paul, George, and Ringo, her Leif Garret and Shaun Cassidy and Backstreet Gentlemen all rolled into one, would be performing in Littleton on August 6th.

I checked once, checked twice, and yes, it was in fact true, one of the greatest musicians of our time, “Weird” Al Yankovic, was performing on the original date of the Denver Catfish Festival.

There are few things more important to the Chairman of The Denver Catfish Festival than The Denver Catfish Festival, but this schedule snafu was one of those things.  True to my word, the whole Chairman family will be taking in the Weird Al show, postponing the Denver Catfish Festival.

So, there you have it.  We’re set for Saturday, August 20th, when the first filet will hit oil at 1:12 PM MDT.  

Note: An excellent way to work through the emotional stress caused by rescheduled events is to voice one’s tender emotional condition through Haiku.  And remember, Fabulous Prizes await those who answer the call and write a winning Catfish-inspired verse!

Sincerely,

Joe T., Chmn.

“Ask Me Why UHF is One of the Greatest Films of All Time.”uhf03

“In the future, everyone will fry catfish for fifteen minutes.”

12 May

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Greetings, Fellow Catfish Enthusiasts,

We hope that the long, cold winter and sopping wet spring haven’t spoiled your appetite for a deep-fried revival of The Late Summer Classic, now in its thirteenth iteration, The 2016 Denver Catfish Festival.

And let’s be honest.  It has certainly been cold, wet, and generally unpleasant here in Colorful Colorado over the past few months, but by the time the first filet hits oil, at 1:12 PM MST on August 6th, everything will be dry as a bone save the milk bath awaiting eager cuts of prime Catfish before they take the journey from cornmeal to hot oil to cooling rack to your belly!  Ah, just think of it: sunshine, ice cold beer, hush puppies, catfish, corn dogs for the lil’ festivalgoers…

You’ll notice by the title of this entry that we’ve, uh, loosely quoted one Andy Warhol, the penultimate pop-art producer whose birthday happens to be on the date we’ve chosen for this year’s event.  After the success of last year’s tribute to Jerry Garcia (upon whose birthday DCF2015 was held) the Denver Catfish Festival Marketing Division felt that honoring another cold, dead famous person was a good theme with which to draw a crowd.  To that end, we’re certain that stiff Warhol urbanites will enjoy our homespun brand of mellow hangoutification as much as the dirty hippies did as long as we have tasteful, profound visuals and Velvet Underground on the jukebox.

Not sure if that’s going to happen though, now that I think about it.  Call me a troglodytic provincialist festival chairman, but I don’t understand the deal with the Campbell’s Soup Cans.   Isn’t that plaigiarism?  Did he really create anything?  If we do multicolored fried catfish, is that like a Warhol piece?  It’s really not worth the risk to attempt to synthetically alter the coloration of fried foods.  Catfish and hush puppies are already  works of art without a bunch of artsy New York so-and-so’s mucking up the works with questionable food coloring.

And, I mean I liked Lou Reed and all, but the Velvet Underground, outside of Sweet Jane and maybe There She Goes Again (the R.E.M. version, actually) never really ignited my fryer.  OK how about this: remember that Billy Idol song Cradle of Love?  We’ll play that.  It’s a dumb song but it seems like it would be more fun to hear at a Denver Catfish Festival than that other stuff.  The video had Warhol paintings of Billy Idol that came alive and sang the song, so we’re covered.

And Blondie–Debbie Harry is/was a huge Warhol fan, or they were friends or something.  And I’d be shocked if she didn’t love fried catfish as well.  She’s worldly like that.  We’ll play a few Blondie songs.  Everybody likes Blondie, and I’ve had Atomic stuck in my head today for some reason.  And come to think of it, I do recall that some Denver Catfish Festival participants really like the Grateful Dead.  Maybe we’ll play some of that, too.

So there you have it.  We can’t wait to see you at the 2016 Denver Catfish Festival, Featuring a Billy Idol song, a Blondie song, some Grateful Dead, and more delicious fried catfish, hush puppies, and witty, urbane conversation than you can shake a stick at!

It’s also never too early to begin work on your Catfish-inspired Haikus.  Get thee a writing utensil and parchment!   The judging committee trembles with anticipation and can already be heard, far off in the distance, chanting five-seven-five…five-seven-five…five-seven-five as they begin their summerlong sojourn from mountain seclusion to DCF 16!

Sincerely,

Joe T., Chmn.

“Ask Me About Artistic and Musical Choices for the 2016 Denver Catfish Festival!”

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