THE BLOG
12/06/2013 09:47 am ET | Updated Feb 05, 2014

Baccala-Blues

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When I was a little boy,

'bout the age of five.

I'd get real excited,

when Christmas was soon to arrive.

But one year, I'll never forget,

Something happened that still makes me sweat.

It was a few days before Christmas,

We were by the fireplace, putting up our socks,

When my Granny came to the house carrying an

old wooden box.

I crinkled my nose.

From the box there came a smell.

An odor so strong and so bad,

it was enough to curl my toes.

What was in that box even smelled worse

than that fish they call lox.

I had to know.

"Tell me, Granny, what's in that box," I cried.

"Never you mind," Granny said.

"Go outside,

go enjoy the snow."

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But now I knew I just had to see.

What was in that box,

that was such a mystery.

I knew I shouldn't, but I looked anyway,

And what I saw, is why I never forget that day.

There was salt, skin and bones.

It was some kind of a fish,

but this was a fish that was as hard as a stone.

It even had what looked like a tail.

And a dead mouth that let out a silent wail.

Then Granny came back

and took the box to the bathroom.

I could hear her filling the tub,

and then a splash,

followed by a sickening thud.

When she left, I opened the door.

The smell was so smelly, I almost fell on the floor.

But soon I forgot what was in the tub.

Christmas was coming.

I was distracted by joy.

I couldn't wait for Santa to bring me my toys.

Then on Christmas Eve morning, when my

Granny appeared.

The moment had come,

the one that I feared.

I remembered that thing in the bathroom,

the fish that was no trout.

I knew that today, was the day it would come out.

I watched from a distance as Granny took it from the tub.

The sight of that hideous fish,

was making my little left eye twitch.

She put it in a pot

covered it with water,

and then on the fire to get it hot.

What would happen to Christmas, I wondered.

Would it still go on?

Would Santa come to a house that smelled of rot?

Santa please,

I cried and moaned.

Please hear my plea.

Don't let that funky fish,

keep you from bringing my toys to me.

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Finally we all sat, for the Christmas Eve feast.

On the table were clams and chestnuts,

spaghetti and shrimp.

And there was that thing, that fish,

the one that reeks.

Granny made sure I had a piece on my plate.

I stared at it in horror,

and silently prayed that that piece would disintegrate.


What's it called, I wanted to be told.

"Baccala," she said, "now eat it, before it gets cold!"

I put it on my fork and slowly brought it to my lips.

I opened my mouth, and took a tiny nip.

I hurriedly reached for my water,

forcing it down.

I drank so much, I hoped I wouldn't drown.

Everyone at the table laughed and made fun of me.

Even my old Gramps was full of glee.

I felt silly and sad.

I didn't want to make Granny mad.

That's when Gramps hugged me tight and looked me in the eyes.

"It's okay, boy, you just paid your dues," he said,

"'Cause now you're hooked,

you got the baccala blues."

Now that I'm a man,

I've learned that Gramps was right.

When it comes to baccala, I've seen the light.

It smells and it's fishy.

It's got salt by the pound.

But these days I like it so much,

it doesn't have to be Christmas

to keep it around.

I'll eat it fried or baked,

in a salad or made into cakes.

The taste of that salty fish is one

I never want to lose.

And that's what happens,

when a man gets the baccala blues.

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