Joe Martin schools Ucluelet students in his salmon barbecue techniques

Story and photos by Denise Titian

On June 8, Joe Martin of Tla-o-qui-aht gave a step-by-step demonstration on how to make tlup-chus (traditional barbecue salmon).

Step one, he said, is to start with a fresh salmon like the one he caught that morning. Your knife must be sharp.

Martin removed the head and tail of the cleaned salmon. He made a shallow slice along the side of the spine before flipping the salmon over and working on the spine from inside the belly.

He carefully sliced along the spine from the inside, first doing one side of the spine and then the other. From there the spine and ribs easily lifted out with very little flesh left on the bones. Martin then cleaned up the butterflied salmon first removing any remaining ribs and some fins.

The entire salmon preparation took Martin only a few minutes to accomplish.

He turned his attention to the materials needed to barbecue a salmon. He used a sturdy salmon berry stalk for the main post. It had been split in half a little more than half its length, and was cut to a point on the other end so that it could easily be stuck in the sand next to the fire.

Next, he had red cedar sticks cut from cedar shakes that would be used to keep the salmon splayed open and held in place as it roasts by the fire. Martin demonstrated how to position the salmon on the main stick then positioned the cedar sticks in a way that would keep the salmon from falling into the fire.

Finally, he used twine to tie both the top and bottom of the main stick for added security then set the salmon next to the fire where, in just a few minutes, it would cook and provide a delicious meal for everyone there.

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