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Discovering America - and fishing!

by Luann Dart

Liza Kessel
Liza Kessel David Kessel

North Dakota’s anglers have lots of reasons for spending time on the local lakes and rivers, meticulously baiting a hook, hopefully flicking a line into the water, and excitedly landing a whopper.

When North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC) Graphic Designer Liza Kessel casts her fishing line into the water, it’s a way to relax and spend time with her husband.

“It is very relaxing for me, waiting for the fish to bite,” she says. “And then it’s exciting when you have a bite.”

But Liza is relatively new to the sport of fishing. She grew up in Angono, Rizal, Philippines, a country where coastlines stretch for thousands of miles, and fresh fish are readily available in the daily markets.

“In the Philippines, it’s easy to buy seafood, because you just go to the market and every morning, there’s fresh fish. It’s available every day. That’s why I never went fishing,” she says.

With a population of more than 113,000 people, Angono is located in the mountainous province of Rizal just 19 miles east of the capital city, Manila. The urban, progressive city is located along the lakeside shore of Laguna de Bay. The Philippines consists of more than 7,107 islands.

Angono, Rizal, is known as the “Art Capital of the Philippines.” It is the home of the national artist for music and the national artist for visual arts, as well as the oldest known work of art in the Philippines.

“I’m actually related to the national artist for visual arts, Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco. He is my grandmother’s (to my father’s side) first cousin. My grandmother to my mom’s side was a very well-known stage actress in the 1920s. And I have a few cousins who are artists, writers and musicians,” Liza shares. “But the town itself is full of art. We have amazing traditions and culture. There are a lot of things going on in that small town. There were arts and artists everywhere. All types of them.”

Surrounded by Filipino artistry as she was growing up, Liza didn’t always have artistic aspirations.

“Growing up, I always wanted to become a fighter plane pilot, but I knew then that will not happen. So I had a second plan, to become a civil engineer and I was so focused, I knew exactly the university to go to and I knew it would happen. But it only took me one visit to a painting museum and that changed everything for me. I knew in my heart, I would become an artist,” she says.

With her new aspiration, Liza pursued a bachelor of fine arts, with a degree in advertising at the University of Santo Tomas, and worked at an advertising company in the Philippines before meeting her husband, David, who is a native of Dickinson.

After moving to Bismarck, Liza took a job at United Printing as a graphic designer, then at NDAREC in 2013, where her duties include designing the pages of North Dakota Living. Living in Bismarck, David and Liza are members of Capital Electric Cooperative.

When Liza first visited the United States in 2002, she experienced her first fishing trip with David, landing a small-mouth bass. When she moved to Bismarck and married in 2003, she started to fish more often with David, who loves the sport.

The two shore fish or fish from their boat, with Beulah Bay on the southern shore of Lake Sakakawea as their favorite spot to fish. David grew up fishing in that area, but he’ll fish anywhere the fish bite, Liza jokes.

“I definitely go with my husband every time he asks to go fishing,” Liza says.

When Liza moved to the United States, she not only was new to fishing, but she was new to preparing the fish to cook, particularly walleye.

“I never cooked when I lived in the Philippines,” she says. She remembers calling her mother-in-law to learn how to prepare stuffed peppers, the first recipe she made after moving to Bismarck. And she’s learned most of her cooking skills from her mother-in-law.

“I sometimes call my mom in the Philippines every time I’m having Filipino food cravings,” she says.

Liza soon started experimenting with recipes to find simple, yet delicious, recipes for the two main fish they caught, walleye and salmon.

She discovered a version of the Walleye Parmesan recipe when she was visiting a relative’s home, but the chef didn’t want to share his secret ingredients. So, Liza developed her own version.

“It turned out perfect for me and my husband,” she says.

When Liza’s mother and sister visited last summer, Liza prepared baked salmon for them, but they didn’t like it, Liza says. So, her sister found a recipe online that they fine-tuned – the Salmon with Cream recipe.

“We removed ingredients we didn’t really like and we ended up with a simple recipe and it turned out really good,” Liza says.

Luann Dart is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the Elgin area.