As autumn draws near, we are already reminiscing about our favorite summer memories, and one in particular stands out from the rest.
We were invited to spend the last Sunday in August with our friends, Tom and Julie Shorma and their children, Maggie (7) and T.J. (6), at the home on Lake Lida they share with Julie’s parents, Fay and Peggy Fisher. Tom had recently caught a twenty-four pound mahi mahi while deep-sea fishing sixty miles off the coast of Virginia, and was eager to share it with us.
In case you’ve forgotten, Tony-from-Toronto is a city boy to the core who does not share Gio’s and my affection for the Minnesota lake scene. The forecast for that day was sunny and ninety-five degrees, and I wondered how Tony would fare as I suspected that Tom and Julie had a secondary motive for getting us to the lake. They are both avid (and excellent) water skiers who are passionate about helping others learn to ski, and I knew they weren’t going to let Tony leave without at least giving it a try.
On the evening before our trip, I told Tony that we’d been advised to bring our swimsuits. “Oh, yeah, right,” he replied “There’s no way I’m going in the water.” I laughed, and told him that not only did I think he’d be going in the water, but I’d bet good money that Tom and Julie had plans for him to water ski. He shot me a dirty look, as he begrudgingly packed his swimsuit.
We arrived at the Fisher/Shorma cabin in early afternoon, and the sandy-bottomed lake was so calm it looked like a sheet of glass, perfect for waterskiing. Tom and Julie’s speedboat is designed for waterskiing, and even has a boom extension off the driver’s side to teach others the sport. Instead of trying to hold a rope behind the boat and having to endure one humiliating face-flop after another, new skiers can simply grab hold of the boom, while Julie calls out instructions to them from the driver’s seat.
Up first was Maggie, who began learning to ski this summer. She paved the way for Giovanni, who was thrilled to be up on water skis. The kids made it look so easy, there was no way Tony could refuse to follow their lead. As he anxiously donned his lifejacket, Tom remarked that this was the first time he’d ever seen Tony nervous. I followed that by saying this was the first time Gio and I had ever seen him in a lake. Tony responded by saying that he hoped he wouldn’t be the one to break the Shorma’s perfect-record for getting newbies up on skis. Talk about pressure.
But Tom and Julie truly are pros at this game, and before we knew it, Tony was waterskiing, seemingly without effort (and even with a smile!). I took my turn, but without the boom, and was relieved to find that after several years’ hiatus, I could still get up on skis. And stay up.
After an afternoon snack complete with RumChata liqueur cocktails and a beautiful pontoon ride around the lake, it was time for the main event. Tom had prepared his mahi mahi two ways: blackened Cajun-style, and crusted with macadamia nuts. Both were excellent, but the macadamia mahi mahi was our favorite. Made with coconut milk as the binding agent, Tom’s fish was mild, sweet and perfectly cooked, with a lovely balance of textures between the crunch of the macadamia nut coating and the firm meat of the fish.
We enjoyed the mahi mahi with Peggy’s Fall Vegetable Casserole, a delicious medley of veggies roasted in beef bouillon and butter. This side dish had amazing flavor and even included rutabaga, another first for us.
The food was terrific, but they could have served us hot dogs and potato chips and we’d have left happy. The hospitality and friendship extended to us by Tom, Julie and their family created a lake experience we will never forget, and may have even changed Tony’s mind about “the lakes.” I wonder how we’ll return the favor.