Bernadette Courtoreille and her youngest daughter Vanessa Daigneault make their way to Hay River’s Fisherman’s Wharf outdoor market every week.They have the same set-up as most – food service on a checkered red vinyl tablecloth laid out over an aqua teal stand, plastic forks and knives grouped separately into disposable red cups. They are close to offering one of the staples at the wharf – fish and chips. But Courtoreille decided this year that she’d do it a little differently. “Don’t get me wrong, I like my fish and chips,” she said. “I see the younger generation going for the fried stuff and I see the older generation asking for the healthier stuff, and I think it will always be like that.”
So Courtoreille decided to get into the healthier stuff. This year, she is selling seasoned fish baked in tinfoil at the wharf, along with a side salad as opposed to French fries.
She is touting it as the healthy alternative, while still promoting the tried and true fish and chips.
It’s an experiment she said she decided to try out this year, and, so far, it’s working well. She sells around 80 dinners per week at the Saturday market and goes through around 40 fish.
It’s also a practice that harkens back to a now defunct festival. The Fisherman’s Heritage, held for decades in the West Channel, ceased in 1999. That event brought together townspeople, fishermen and their families to celebrate at the end of the summer fishing season by eating fish prepared in different ways, including the traditional fried and foiled. New health regulations, among other reasons, brought the event to an end.
The Hay River Fisherman’s Wharf started up in 2004 and fried fish has been a staple ever since.
Wharf frequenter Shirley King likes both fried and baked fish, and is happy for the variety.
“It’s healthier for you,” said King of the baked fish. “But then I eat pie afterwards.”
Some Saturdays can get fairly busy, but the lineups for baked fish do not yet match the lineups for fried fish.
Courtoreille noted cooking up orders doesn’t seem like work.
“I actually enjoy doing this,” she said. “One of the main reasons I like to do it is that you see people you haven’t seen in years. I grew up here. I went to school with a lot of these people, and it’s nice to see all the people you used to know.”
– by Angele Cano