Last Supper: Shad Roe

In my family, the passage of time is marked by the meals. Zucchini bread in abundance means summer has had her way with my mother’s garden and the zucchini have bloated to the size of footballs. The gelatinous herb-laced scarlet tire of my grandmother’s tomato aspic says “Merry Christmas” when it wiggles on the top shelf of the fridge. Cassoulet is the punctuation mark of a happy birthday for my Pisces father. And shad roe means spring, it means warmth is imminent and the days are growing longer and the world is rejuvenating. And it reminds me of Jasper, not that I need reminding.

Jasper was a best friend of mine, and the brother of a best friend, and the closest I’ll come to having a brother. I think most people who read this blog knew Jasper or know of him, but, dear Reader, if you didn’t know him, then think instead of one of your favorite people, one who could always coax a smile, but who isn’t around to squeeze your knees anymore.

Shad roe was Jasper’s last meal.

When the shad swim up the Potomac and lay their bloody eggs for North Eastern gourmands to claim and sautée in butter, I think of Jasper smiling as he ate shad roe for the first time, with the spring sun setting behind the Catskills. I think of him telling stories in his singularly delicious accent—posh and punk at once—in the warm kitchen with rapt fans hanging on his every word.

I am reminded by this image to live life as Jasper did: constantly trying new things, challenging himself, laughing at himself, laughing at me, making me laugh. I share with you his lesson: Try Everything.

Taste the tripe. Gobble the liver. Indulge in a sweetbread. Give the brussel sprouts that you were force-fed in childhood another chance when they are roasted with olive oil and sea salt. Pick up a guitar or a paint brush. Push your boundaries. You might find you love something you’d never thought to try.

And if you want to taste the somewhat strange, beady, livery, very delicious shad roe, try it Patricia’s way, and think of the lights that you have loved, and let them fill you up and warm you from within.

Patricia Jean’s recipe:

“Super simple. Wash and pat dry one set of shad roe. Dredge in seasoned flour. Heat clarified butter until sizzling. Brown roe. (Be sure to cover with splatter guard, it’s brutally explosive when browning). Lower heat and cook gently until barely pink in middle. Retire roe to warm oven. Deglaze pan with lots of lemon, add lots of chopped parsley. Some add cooked bacon. I don’t.
Pour over roe, bliss!”

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Vintage photos of shad fishing on the Potomac c. 1910.

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11 Responses to “Last Supper: Shad Roe”

  1. jaime blag says:

    made me shiver with frissons. jasper was my best friend in my teens and like a few people here, the brother i never had. off to notting hill carnival in a few days – having grown up on those streets with jas, it is always a mixed experience but it’s where i feel closest to him. great article. thanks x

  2. samg says:

    reading now with a tear in my eye, remembering Jasper & so moved by your words…

  3. JOselyn Wohl says:

    This is beautifulwriting I love it!

  4. Arturo says:

    Live every day as if…
    Love you, T.

  5. Emilie says:


    1 : carefully selected : choice 2 a: marked by flawless craftsmanship or by beautiful, delicate execution b : marked by deep sensitivity or subtle understanding c : accomplished, perfected 3 a : pleasing through beauty or perfection b : acute, intense

  6. Sally Lynch says:

    Lovely writing, lovely sentiments & memories of a missed friend. Keep giving me treats such as this. Please!

  7. Melissa Millay says:

    The only time I’ve had shad roe is when your mom made it – and even then I didn’t love it. That’s saying a lot, because in all the years I’ve eaten your mom’s cooking, I’ve devoured everything with geat gusto and delight.

    Inspired by this elegiacal post and memories of Jasper’s joie de vivre, I will now give shad roe another chance…

  8. Barbarella says:

    Oh no, now I feel resolved to try the tripe instead of push it away. Jasper= La dolce vita!

    …Patricia’s recipe has my mouth watering. Love that generous lemon and parsley.

  9. silver cat says:

    So tender…beautiful beautiful Jasper.

  10. sallytomatoes says:

    Oh my. This makes me weep.
    Thank you, thank you.
    Love love love.

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