Coastal Cooking- Cod a la muffler

There we were sailing along on Penobscot Bay. As we passed a local lobster boat, I saw a wad of aluminum foil wired to the upright muffler. Turning to the Captain, I smiled and said, that’s a strange muffler bandage. “No,” he replied, ” It’s Lunch.” then he explained that lobster traps caught more than lobsters. The by-catch included crabs, cusk, cod, and other species. Most of the by-catch got discarded overboard, but the odd cod could end up as lunch.*
If you’ve been snowmobiling, you may have run into the little steel pans that look like old fashioned mess kits. You pop them on your exhaust manifold, and it warms up your hot dogs. Well, hot dogs and beans ( Burnham and Morril or homemade) are too much a New England tradition to ruin them that way. Buried in a beanpot over a slow cooing bed of coals…but, that’s another story. Cod a la muffler was a different sort of meal.
One day I was out with Lowell, and a lovely cod came up in one of the pots. He promptly pulled out the tin foil, gutted the cod, and onto the muffler it went. About a month later, I was out with someone else who prepared the cod with more than salt and pepper; a feast in several courses was prepared by compartmentalizing the cod, veggies, and condiments to cook together. when I asked if he ever tried steaming lobster on the pipe, he looked at me if I were crazy and told me, ” I don’t eat the darn bugs at all.”

*The events described here happened in the early ’70s. Back then, the problems with by-catch were not understood. Since that time it’s become a significant issue in fisheries.

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