I Used To Work In A Salmon Factory + Easy Instant Pot Eggplant Marinara Sauce

3_Whole_food_plant_based_eggplant_marinara_top_shot

It was 4:30am, and I was living on a barge in Alaska.

There hadn’t been enough time between my morning alarm and the beer and cigarettes from the night before. I was groggy from the early hour and not looking forward to the day ahead. I slowly got out of bed, got dressed and walked outside to put on my heavy black rain galoshes, before making the damp walk to the factory.

We had to keep our work boots outside our room to avoid the rancid smell of wet, smelly feet and rubber. As I pulled my left galosh onto my foot, I felt cold liquid seep through my sock, engulfing my foot. I quickly took the boot off to inspect what had gone wrong.

It was pee.
It was 4:30 in the morning and there was pee in my fucking galosh.

It was the summer I turned 20 and my best friend and I had the bright idea to go to Alaska and spend the summer working at a salmon factory. We had a friend who had done it the year before and made bank. We had always wanted to see Alaska, and we thought we were being clever by going to see it while being paid at the same time. We knew the work would be tough, but we were 20 and up for anything.

No surprise, it turned out to be a disaster. Of course it did.
I was a vegetarian going to work in a salmon factory. There was no way this was going to end well.

It was the first day on the job and we had on galoshes, waterproof overalls, raincoats and a hairnet. We were ready to roll. There were two sizes of cans that the factory packed. A big can and a small can. I was put on the big can assembly line.

As soon as the conveyor belt turned on and started moving I got nervous. The big cans of salmon were coming my way and I couldn’t stop it from happening. I was in position on the assembly line and if I were to walk away, the whole line would be fucked. My stomach was in knots and my palms were sweaty. What was I doing here?

As the cans made their way down the assembly line they came into focus, and all I saw were salmon heads sticking up out of each can.

Shit.

It was my job to push the heads down far enough so that the lid could be attached to the can. When I pushed the heads down, there was an awful squishing noise that I can only recreate with my mouth. It was terrible.

After my first day on the big can line my mind was made up. I needed to be transferred to the small can line right away. After my 11-hour shift I talked with my boss, and I told her that I couldn’t do it. I used the vegetarian card and told her that I could do the small cans, but I couldn’t work the salmon heads all day. The smaller cans were filled with salmon pieces that were pre-cut, not the whole fucking fish. This wasn’t any better for the fish, just for me.

My boss was an impatient woman from New Zealand. She told me that I should have thought about this before signing up for the job. With my most pitiful face, I nodded in agreement and she reluctantly made the transfer.

My new job on the small-can line was also terrible, but at least now I wasn’t crying and gagging every time a can passed by. I worked on the portion of the conveyor belt where the cans would come when their weight was off. I would either add salmon in or take salmon out until each can weighed the correct amount.

The machine that transferred the salmon into the cans at the start of the assembly line wasn’t calibrated right because 9 out of 10 cans wouldn’t be the correct weight, and they would come down my line, for adjustment. I had to work fast because if too many cans backed up, the conveyor belt would jam and production would have to stop. And NO ONE liked it when production stopped.

At this point I should tell you that my best friend and I were the only white people who worked on the assembly line. There were other white people who worked at the production facility, but they worked in quality control and management. The only people working the line, apart from me and my friend, were Filipino women from L.A., and there were a lot of them.

They would came to Alaska every season to do this work. This is how they supported their families and it was their main source of income for the entire year. They were serious about it and worked with extreme gratitude and care.

And then there was me. A 20-year-old, white vegetarian who couldn’t deal with the big can line.

For all I knew, I took one of their friend’s job, someone who really needed it. And there I was, just wanting to be in Alaska for the summer while getting paid. From the get-go, I was not liked by my co-workers. And they let my privileged ass know by peeing in my galosh.

The summer proceeded to go downhill. Between the 11 – 15 hour workdays, the smell of dead fish, our co-workers hating us, our mean boss, a couple of unfortunate nights down at the local bar, and my moral dilemma of working in a salmon factory when I myself didn’t eat salmon, it was time to wrap it up and call it a summer.

Our boss was angry that we were leaving early. “You will never be able to work here again if you leave” she said, in her thick New Zealand accent. We told her that was exactly the point as we booked the next ferry out and made our way to Washington state. From Washington we rode a Greyhound bus all the way home to New Mexico. And that’s a story for another time.

I left Alaska with galosh rot and a new understanding of hard work. I also knew that I would continue eating a vegetarian diet (and eventually plant based) because a factory is no place for salmon.

Easy Instant Pot Eggplant Marinara Sauce

Author: Molly Patrick of Clean Food Dirty Girl

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red onion, sliced (100g)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped (6g)
  • 1 eggplant, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 2 1/2 cups / 270g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 small can tomato paste (6oz / 170g)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 1 cup water (235ml)
  • A few turns of black pepper

Instructions

  • Press the saute button on your Instant Pot (IP) and allow the inner pot to heat up for 2 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and parsley and saute for 1 minute, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn’t burn. 
  • Add the eggplant, salt and 1 tablespoon of water and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste, coconut aminos, water and black pepper and stir. 
  • Turn the IP off and lock the lid into place. Turn the nozzle to the “sealing” position and using the manual setting, set the timer for 20 minutes. 
  • When the timer goes off, use the quick release method. 
  • Serve over pasta, grains, bread or veggies.

Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with finding the humor in it all.

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20 Comments

  1. Anna Miller on July 28, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Such a funny story and one i can totally understand. I worked in a chicken factory when i was in my 20’s. I wish it had been in Alaska, but alas it was in Lincolnshire in the UK where i grew up. It was a pretty rural area, so it was either farming which you had to be fortunate to either grow up on a farm, or marry a hot farmer.. (I looked, there weren’t any!) Or… the chicken factory or the sausage and pork pie factory. So chickens it was. I was on the breast line which was totally appropriate due to the size of my enormous knockers.. It was quite a learning curve. When the line started and there were all these slimey chicken breasts coming at me i panicked. Its super stressful knowing you can’t stop for a second or everything fucks up down the line. Ahh… the good times. I sadly worked there for several months before finding something that wasn’t soul destroying. Thanks for the laughs and memories.

  2. Tracey Pires on July 28, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    That was a hilarious story!
    And what I found even funnier is that I can almost guarantee your old boss from New Zealand is a family friend. And you guessed it I’m also from NZ. She may be good at her job but she’s lovely out of work. AND she’s been a vegetarian for pretty much all of her life, still is ?
    Love your blogs, and love your recipes!
    Blessings, Tracey

  3. Lisa Powlen on July 29, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    I worked on an 86,000 acre cattle ranch in my 20’s, and we ain’t talking about a farm sanctuary either. Thank God for forgiveness of myself, and my 40’s.

  4. Denise on July 30, 2018 at 7:25 am

    I just got my 1st weekend email and I see the picture “Here’s what members are cooking this week”….so where are the recipes????

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on July 30, 2018 at 7:56 am

      Hi Denise, They are a part of our paid meal plan subscription. You can sign up for a subscription here. The July 27th meal plan is now archived, so signing up today means your first meal plan would be this coming Friday. But, meal plan subscribers are able to purchase past plans so it is possible to purchase that meal plan if you subscribe. Feel free to reach out to us via email: [email protected] if we can help with other questions. ~Karen

  5. Margie on August 4, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    I’m wondering if you think this recipe would freeze well or if the eggplant would just get too squishy? Thanks

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on August 10, 2018 at 8:32 am

      Hi Margie, we think it would freeze just fine. ~Karen

  6. Tracey on August 6, 2018 at 9:06 am

    5 stars
    This recipe is so. damned. good. I made it yesterday and it is really easy and delicious. My next life goal is to double it and see how that works out 🙂

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on August 6, 2018 at 9:12 am

      Oh yeah! Nom it up. Thanks, Tracey! ~Karen

      • Tracey on December 28, 2018 at 4:35 pm

        5 stars
        It took me a while to get around to doubling it, but I can confirm that it doubles perfectly in my 6-qt Instant Pot. Sautéed the veggies a bit longer, but used same amount of time for the pressure cooking.

  7. CarolB on August 11, 2018 at 10:25 am

    Peel the eggplant?
    That’s how it looks in the photo.
    Does it matter?

    It looks so yummy and I love eggplant!
    Thanks!

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on August 13, 2018 at 10:51 am

      Hi CarolB, I checked with Molly and she says either way is yummy. Molly tested the recipe with the skin on and our photographer tested the recipe with the skin off. ~Karen

    • Cyndi on August 16, 2018 at 5:25 am

      Do you salt the eggplant first?

      • Molly Patrick on August 16, 2018 at 2:48 pm

        You can, but we did not 😉
        xo
        Molly

  8. Wendy on August 12, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Could you make this on the stove top too?

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on August 13, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Hi Wendy! Absolutely. Just cook until the eggplant is super soft, probably 20-25 minutes. ~Karen

  9. Janelle on May 4, 2019 at 9:28 am

    Could I make this in a regular crock pot?

    Also, gotta say, you are the ONLY food blogger whose stories are great enough to ALWAYS read on the way to the recipe!! Thanks for always giving us a laugh and a push in the right direction!

  10. Jaci on May 5, 2019 at 6:24 pm

    Hi Molly! I worked the slime line two summers in Eggegik almost 30 years ago. My experience with the Moonies was quite a different story. And from the sound of it, a hell of a lot better.

  11. Aileen on March 31, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    5 stars
    I make this recipe almost weekly, I love, love, love eggplant! This is such a versatile recipe I actually made the base for chili using it & added cumin, chili powder, paprika & cayenne for the spices. It was spot on!

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on March 31, 2020 at 6:41 pm

      Hi Aileen, this is a great recipe and what a great idea to use it as a base for chili! ~Karen

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