I keynoted a conference in snowy Michigan last week, back near the Great Lakes of my youth in Chicago. While my family frequently explored the Great Lakes region, somehow I missed out on smoked ciscoes, a local favorite that's the main incentive in a story by William Least Heat Moon that I read recently. Some of you may remember that I cited his classic book Blue Highways several times in The Science of Consequences, and his 2013 collection Here, There, Elsewhere: Stories from the Road is also worth a look.
In one of these stories, Least Heat Moon reminisces about the delightful smoked Lake Superior ciscoes he enjoyed as a child. (That's a small commercial fish.) You can't go back again . . . right? Although it took some doing, when he finally tracked them down, they were as good as he remembered: "Their sweet delectability made finishing one almost a regret; even having a dozen others iced down, enough for several more lunches and dinners, didn’t relieve my sense of impending cisco deprivation" (p. 282). Talk about a trip down memory lane . . . and a positive reinforcer enhanced by its rarity. The schedule of reinforcement and the nostalgic associations both influence the value, not that I doubt Least Heat Moon's objectivity. Anyway, that was hardly the purpose of this quest!
Least Heat Moon's difficulty in finding this delicacy had me concerned about its sustainability--look at the collapse of the Grand Banks cod fishery that I wrote about in TSOC, and all the threats to so many fisheries around the world. But in Lake Superior, anyway, it appears that this small species, while not as abundant as it used to be, is holding its own (source, Minnesota Sea Grant). I'll be back in Minnesota this summer for a conference. Wonder if I can find a smoked cisco in the Twin Cities . . .