Sunday, 4 December 2016

We sat down for a chat...with Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock's debut novel, The Smell of Other People's Houses, paints a superbly grounded sense of teenage life in small town 1970s Alaska. We asked her a few questions and she's even shared her favourite fish recipe too!

The Smell of Other People's Houses - Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
          We Sat Down: What are some of your favourite smells and why? 

          Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock: One is low bush cranberries growing wild near Fairbanks Alaska. It almost smells like the whole forest is moldy and ripe, which some people really dislike, but if I’m walking on the trails near Fairbanks and smell that peaty foliage ALL of my childhood memories come flooding back.I also love the smell of cardamom, reminding me of time I spent in Kathamandu where it wafted through the air from all the street vendors and the little tea shops. However, smells that bring back the strongest sense of place are usually related to our time spent fishing. Just the other day my daughter ordered green tea at a restaurant in St. Louis and both she and her brother immediately said, “wow, that smells like the inside of our fishing gloves when we hang them up to dry on the boat.” Sadly, I think it tasted like that as well.

A moose
 WSD: What 'wild, untamed childhood' moments, do you personally thank Alaska for?

B-S H: Alaska is just so big and has such a small population that our childhoods were formed by the environment almost as much as by the people we knew. As kids we would ride our bikes until 3am during the summer because it was light all night long. My own kids were running skiffs (small boats) in tiny bays at the age of 5 or 6. We spent a lot of time camping and rafting rivers with our huge extended family.

But mainly we just live more connected to the land. Everything revolves around when the salmon spawn or the first big freeze up in winter. I just like the way we seem to live from season to season in a more cohesive way than in other places I’ve lived.

Salmon fishing with Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
WSD: You loved fishing but do you love cooking fish? Do you have a favourite fish recipe?

B-S H: I am such a salmon fanatic that I eat it at least every other day. My favorite recipe is VERY simple because King Salmon is so full of flavor, you really don’t have to do much to it. Basically salted and grilled with lemon and onion and maybe a little dill is all you need to do. The biggest thing is not to over cook it or it will be dry. There are so many omega 3 oils that it’s like eating a stick of butter and who doesn’t love butter? (my mouth is watering just typing this)

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock fishing with her kid
WSD: If you could invite anyone, who would you invite to go fishing with you?

B-S H: I think fishing is definitely not for everyone so it’s really important to be with people who can handle a small space and don’t freak out about being seasick. I can only imagine being out there on the ocean with my kids because we are all acclimated to each other and are very familiar with the pace of the fishing life. I’ve tried to find a good answer to your question but when I asked my kids they said it’s cruel to make people work that hard and be covered with fish blood and have to smell bad for weeks on end. Perhaps they are trying to tell me something? So I guess I’ll say I would take anyone who promised beforehand not to be mad at me if they felt really awful the whole time. 


Thanks so much, Bonnie-Sue, and you all can read more about her here: There are some really interesting and charming bits on her blog, including flowers, whisky bottles and nieces with cool hair.

Our review of The Smell of Other People's Houses here.

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