Grunion-Hunter’s Delight

Cunningham's latest book is "Cooking With Children" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995)

I began leafing through a notebook of old recipes not long ago, and it was just like looking at an old photo album. Dishes I had forgotten appeared on page after page and reminded me of friends and family with whom I had shared great meals many years before. I was inspired to cook some of the forgotten dishes again.

The omelet and scones go back to World War II, when my husband was stationed in Santa Ana and we were living in a tiny rented house in Laguna Beach. Scads of friends from our high school days in Glendale would arrive at our house during the summer with their sleeping bags for indefinite stays.

Our best entertainments were the grunion runs. Grunion, tiny silver fish much like smelt, come onto shore in waves to lay their eggs. Minutes later they wash back out to sea.

We would wait for hours on the beach, sitting around our fires, drinking beer--or the popular drink of the day, sloe gin--and eating potato chips. When we were lucky and the grunion came--it always seemed to be around midnight--they shimmered silver in the moonlight, almost as if they were dancing on the beach.


We would walk into the shallow surf with a bucket and capture lots of grunion in no time. It was illegal to use anything but your hands to catch them, and we got very good at it. By 2 a.m., the grunion had disappeared and, wet and tired, we would return to the house with our buckets full of grunion. I would fry them right then, and we would eat them with French bread and salad.

Of course, we often waited and waited for grunion that never came. On those nights, we always ate sour cream and avocado omelets with brown scones. Second best, but very good. Be sure to serve the scones warm and buttered.




1/3 avocado, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

3 eggs




1/4 cup sour cream

Lightly salt avocado slices.

Whisk eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste with fork in small bowl until yolks and whites are thoroughly blended.

Heat 8-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon butter and tilt skillet as butter melts so it coats entire bottom of skillet. Pour in eggs and let set about 5 seconds. Pull cooked egg from perimeter of pan toward center with spatula, allowing uncooked egg to run under.


While eggs are still moist, about 15 seconds, push omelet to 1 side of pan and slightly up side. Spread sour cream on 1/2 of omelet in bottom of pan and top with avocado slices. Fold other 1/2 of omelet over sour cream-avocado half. Cook omelet 5 more seconds, then quickly tilt pan upside down over plate. Pat omelet into shape with hands if necessary. Spread small amount of butter over top to make shiny. Serve hot.

1 serving.

550 calories; 933 mg sodium; 694 mg cholesterol; 48 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 22 grams protein; 1.20 grams fiber.



1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup bran

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt


1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 egg

1/2 cup milk


Whisk together flour, bran, baking powder, salt and sugar in bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and add to flour mixture. Rub butter into flour with fingertips or cut in with pastry blender until mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs.

Lightly beat egg in small bowl. Add milk and mix until blended. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until just blended.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured board and knead 12 times. Pat into circle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut dough into 12 wedges. Place wedges 1/2 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees until golden on top, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve hot.

1 dozen scones. Each scone:


109 calories; 218 mg sodium; 29 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 15 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.22 gram fiber.


Ralph Lauren Denimware plate from Room With a View, Santa Monica; Greco, San Pedro; and Pottery Shack, Laguna Beach. Boutros linen tablecloth from Room at the Beach, Santa Monica.