Please – Leave Comments

You can ask any blogger and they will tell you at some point they wondered if anyone was reading their posts.  Just like the scene from Julie and Julia where Amy Adams ponders this very question, sees a comment on a post and but then realizes that it is from her Mother!  I’ve certainly felt that way.  I always make a point to leave a comment, make a suggestion, etc. when I do read other posts. It’s my way of showing some love for the blogger who probably spent hours typing away in the middle of the night, eating leftovers dark chocolate all the while simultaneously shopping Barney’s on-line sale.  But sometimes a reader leaves you a little gem that brightens your day and puts an enormous smile on your face.  Kinda like the one below that arrived on the post I wrote about my Dad on his birthday.

I was online and decided to google my two favorites cousins whom I had not seen since 1989. I was so saddened to find Joe’s obituary but brightened by your birthday tribute. Joe’s grandmother Cuma was my dad Victor’s sister. Bill and Joe and I raised ornery to a new level when we first met around age 10 or younger. I absolutely loved those guys and the fun we had. We once each came up with the dirtiest words we knew then Joe was going to tell on Bill and me. We clamped our hand on his mouth and ran from the house laughing.

I did not see them from the time I was 16 until I stopped in Carlise when I was 45. It was as if time had not passed and we laughed and teased each other and had a great visit. Another 26 years have passed and I still think about them often. That is what led me to google them.

Your words on his birthday touched my heart and made me so happy to have found them. Your dad made me laugh every time I ever saw him. I will forever be holding rabbit ears behind his head in his pictures in heaven.
Gail Friend, Naples, FL and Danbury, IA

Had it not been for my blog post, a curious cousin Googling his relatives in Arkansas would have never known about his ornery cousin’s untimely passing. I also wouldn’t have this gem of a photo of my great uncle Victor Friend.

My dapper great uncle Friend.

My dapper great uncle Victor Friend.

So on days when I think maybe I’ll stop writing about travels, New York City, crap my ex is doing, raising kids and skin care, I’ll remind myself that people are reading my posts,  even long lost relatives with great memories of my Dad.


Front Page Below the Fold

Carter Harrison knows fried catfish

By DJ Duckworth


Some of the most amazing food can be found on the small, yet jam packed island of Manhattan. If you can think of it, it is here. Whether it is authentic Thai, Mexican, Indian or Turkish dishes, you will find it in New York City. And to make it even better, you can have just about any of it delivered. The only exception, I have found is the lack of really good southern cuisine. More specifically, fried catfish. Sure, you can find it in New York City, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the tasty versions that are served up across the southern United States.

However, one man is making catfish served southern style available to the masses across the country. Carter Harrison, the man behind King Kat Inc. of Hickory Plains, has been either raising, processing or catering catfish since the 1970s. Harrison was recently in Washington, D.C. cooking for the Catfish Farmers of America when I caught up with him to talk about his career and the current state of the catfish industry.

Before the crowd of Southern senators and congressman arrived at the reception, Harrison talked with me about his business. He got his start with catfish in the late 1960s working alongside his late father-in-law Raymond Schroeder in Carlisle. The two would often spend 18 hour work days along side each other. Harrison, who grew up in Des Arc, says he had no clue what he wanted to be when he grew up. “How many young people know what they wanna do? I grew up in the country and just knew I liked being outside,“ Harrison said.

Outside is where Harrison was when we spoke as he prepped for the reception not far from the steps of the nation’s Capitol. The hot topic of the evening was the inspection process of catfish with the focus being on imports. Harrison says the imported catfish from China and Vietnam is cheaper but not being held up to the same standards as the U.S. raised catfish. “They are bringing it in at a lower cost, not by the guidelines that they need to be, competing with our product that is cultured and produced under good situations under U.S. guidelines.” Currently, imported catfish has 75 percent of the filet market.

The United States Department of Agriculture currently inspects catfish, but the government, sighting duplicity issues, wants to move the inspections to the Food and Drug Administration’s supervision. According to Ben Pentecost, president of the Catfish Farmers of America, 91 percent of the fish in the U.S. is imported. The FDA currently inspects only two percent of the imports and conducts chemical testing on one tenth of one percent of imported fish. The House Agriculture committee has already voted to move the inspections from under the USDA to the FDA. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

Joey Lowery, from Newport, farms 400 acres of catfish.

“We can compete with anybody but we have to have the right atmosphere to do that in,“ Lowery said. The catfish inspections are detailed in the 2008 farm bill that has yet to be implemented. Congressman Rick Crawford, serves on the agriculture sub committee that voted to move the inspections to the FDA. “It’s a food safety issue, it’s a quality issue and it’s not a trade retaliation issue,” Crawford says. “If the FDA is going to be in charge of inspecting it, we are going to make sure they inspect it properly and to the right standard.”

U.S. seafood importers with the aid of the National Fisheries Institute have spent over a million dollars to keep the inspections under the FDA’s authority.

After marrying his wife, Debbye, Carter Harrison went into full-time catfish production, even building catfish ponds and processing catfish. In 1985, he streamlined the business focusing primarily on catering. Harrison now has three full-time workers and his family often helps out, even though he says King Kat isn’t a traditional family business. His children seem to disagree.

“No one can merely ‘observe’ when at the farm,” says Harrison’s daughter Shana. She was at the farm before her father left for the Washington, D.C., trip. “Before the day was out, I was sent off to buy dry ice for the trip. At one point, I also saw Chris and Bryce out in the kitchen doing something to get it ready. It seems that the concept of ‘family business’ continues to grow with us, despite our age or how far away from Prairie County we roam.”

Harrison’s mobile operation runs like a well-oiled machine. He does some prep work before leaving Hickory Plains and adds the finishing touches once he arrives on site. The food is packed in ice chests on dry ice. The Mississippi-raised catfish is later dressed and fried in his mobile kitchen. Like the veil of secrecy surrounding the ingredients of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s recipe, Harrison prefers to keep his breading recipe under wraps. But he does make a concession when I ask him if he will divulge it to me, “only if you wanna buy it!” he says.

If you can think of an event where you need a meal, King Kat has catered it — from RiverFest, to funerals, to luncheons in Washington, D.C., to fundraisers at local schools. As one publications once wrote, King Kat has served catfish from the outhouse to the White House.

With a career spanning over 40 years, Harrison talks about his favorite part of the job. “Pleasing people,” he says this with a pause as tears come to his eyes. “I’ve enjoyed working with a lot of young people along the way, too.”

When asked what he would be doing if he weren’t the king of catfish catering, he says with a laugh, “I wouldn’t be fishing! I’d be seeing the county. I’d still eat catfish though, maybe driving a bus and touring people in later years but that won’t happen. I’m gonna cook to long to do that.”

In the fast paced world of social media, you won’t find King Kat on Facebook and you will not be able to keep up with their travels on Twitter. You can’t even get the scoop on King Kat off of his website – there isn’t one. Harrison says, “we have a phone number” and that has kept him busy and in business since 1980.

DJ Duckworth is a television journalist currently living in New York City. The Carlisle native is a contributing writer for New York Family magazine. You can read more about her adventures