The Great Vinegar Incident

As you know, we have been working on "greening" our nest over the past few months.  The Great Green Spring Cleaning Challenge has evolved past a one time challenge into an everyday practice.  We're not perfect; paper towels still have their place (although greatly reduced) and air fresheners have worked their way back in (although again, in a greatly reduced capacity).  I do aim to use "natural" air fresheners as much as possible.  Now that the weather is improving we can indulge in one of the best; opening the windows.  There's some blustery weather blowing in today, and so we have several windows open in order to make the most of the crisp, rain-drenched breeze that's blowing down off the mountains.  Although it's sad to see the sun go, it's the sort of day that gets into your blood and really makes you feel alive.

There are some odour challenges,  however, that call for the big guns.  Smells like fried food, sour milk, and fish.  Fish in almost all it's forms can leave a lingering smell, the memory of which can be enough to deter an individual from wanted to prepare it.  "Smells like low tide" is an East Coast way of explaining the lingering smell of seafood.

A sure-fire way to neutralize household odours, including fish, is to bring some white vinegar to a boil and let it simmer.  Yes, your house may smell a bit like pickles, but the offensive odour is gone and the vinegar smell fades away quickly and leaves the air fresh and neutral.  I've relied on this many, many times with good results.  However, like many things one comes to rely on, occasionally it will let you down.  And sometimes, it takes your friends with you...

It was a quiet summer day in Kitimat, and my dear husband had just returned from a day of fishing with a friend.  They brought back a couple salmon and gave them to me to prepare for the freezer.  I had been trying a few different methods of preparation, but for the most part I had simply been wrapping the whole, gutted fish in several layers of tin foil and plastic wrap.  This day, however, I wanted to try my hand at filleting.

I had queried several people about the best method of filleting, and had checked out videos and how-to's on the internet, so I had a pretty good idea of what to do.  That is, at least in theory.  However, what works in theory does not always translate in practice, and things got sloppy.  I managed to get the job done, but my filleting would not win any awards.  No matter, I now had a lovely pile of packets of de-boned salmon fillet-y things in my freezer, ready to be placed into stews and other tasty dishes.  I also had a lovely pile of friends coming over for the evening, and my kitchen was covered in blood, bones, and scales. It also smelled like blood, bones, and scales.  If cooked fish smells like low-tide, then raw fish smells like...well, there really are no words for what raw fish smells like.  Not exactly fishy, but...cloying, and very metallic.  Not at all welcoming.

No matter!  I had lots of elbow grease and vinegar!  I set to work cleaning, and before long I was scraping the last of the scales off the kitchen counter.  All that was left to do was simmer a little vinegar.  My buddies were arriving as I was doing the last of my work (filleting the salmon took a little longer than anticipated) so my husband entertained while I finished up in the kitchen.  I poured some vinegar into a saucepan, put it on a back burner, and brought it to a boil.

When I purchased this vinegar, all that was available was a vinegar that claimed to be "extra strong."  Well, nothing wrong with that!  As I was wiping down the counters with "extra strong" vinegar, I started to hear a few muted coughs coming from the living room.  "Someone has allergies!"  I thought to myself. Then another cough chimed in.  "Must be something in the air" I decided as I reached for a tissue.  Now why were my eyes burning...?

The coughs were becoming more persistent now, as were the mumblings and snickers.  Coincidentally, I was developing a tickle in my throat, too!  How weird!  I was just about to comment on it when finally my husband exclaimed "What are you cooking out there?"

Ahem. While the house may not have smelled like raw fish anymore, it now smelled like brine day at the pickle factory.  Funny, when I'm eating a dill I've never stopped to think how the cucumber felt as it stewed away in its juices.  Suffice to say, the "extra strong" vinegar was doing an "extra good" job of clearing the air, and taking everyone's breath away with it!  I removed the vinegar from the stove and made a mental note to only use it for cleaning from now on.  We ran around opening windows, and eventually the air cleared and we all had a good laugh about the incident.  However, it has become one of those stories that keeps popping up, and no doubt will continue popping up at least as long as we're in Kitimat.

As a result of The Great Vinegar Incident, I have explored other options for naturally freshening the air, ones that aren't quite so breath taking!  My favorites include simmering lemon slices, or oranges and cinnamon sticks, or even a few drops of essential oil in water (read warnings first).  When all else fails, the vinegar is still there, but now I dilute it with some water before turning on the heat!

Some of our best lessons in nesting are born out of disasters, and I've had some doozies!  I have found as I've grown older that having the grace and good humour to laugh at yourself makes these lessons much easier to learn!  I've got a couple of these stories I'm willing to share, and I'll dole them out from time to time.  If you haven't already, one of my best ever epic disasters is detailed in an early post called Mental Note.

So, the next time an attempt at nesting perfection comes crashing down around you, just remember this; One, you're not alone, and two, someday, it'll make a great story!


  1. We quickly learned to "fillet" the salmon...outside!!

  2. I fondly remember The Vinegar Incident :) One of the many boiled delights you introduced us West Coasters to this year. Still awaiting a taste of "Boiled Dinner".


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