When there is Cole’s Smoked Rainbow Trout in my possession I eat it every day. Over time I’ve developed a trout delivery system that is very personal and embarrassing: I use a tiny fork to lift it out of the tin, then I rest it on a tortilla and bless it with hot sauce. I say rest because we are not eating it from the tortilla. We are using the tortilla as a plate. Trout in this form is smooth, delicious, and extremely delicate—if I put it right in the dish I risk losing bits of goodness to the process, not to mention drops of the life-giving olive oil it comes in. So I do it this way, tearing off pieces of tortilla and placing perfect bites of trout inside, again with the little fork. Family style!
I discovered Cole’s in 2019, and as you can imagine it became a big part of my 2020 survival. I actually hesitated to buy it then for fear it might become a ruinous association. I’m so glad I did, though. This product has continued to be a joy even into 2021, and I expect it will for years to come.
My passion for preserved fish doesn’t end at its incredible taste: Eating canned, jarred, and tinned foods makes me feel connected to my Jewishness.
I’m among the many grandchildren of Brooklynites who call themselves “secular Jews.” I grew up that way, religious observances in our house limited to candle lighting and Passover dinners from Boston Market. I’m Russian-Austrian on both sides, but I get my knowledge of these identities where everyone else does: Movies and TV. So whenever I enjoy a pickle or a really bland soup I feel like I’m sharing in ancient tradition, raising my chalice from a stream others can only observe with reverence and curiosity.
That’s how unsealing and plating a tin of gorgeous trout becomes something devotional. At a time when we didn’t know if groceries would continue to be available in the same speed or splendorous variety, there was Cole’s. And so was a ritual that feeds body and soul.
Katelyn Greller is a writer and illustrator who used to take inspiration from the Eighties, but has lately been feeling very Seventies. Part of that is writing intimate portraits of food and drawing herself in a Tomie dePaola fashion. You can find more of her work on katelyngreller.com.