It seemed harder to awake today then it did this time last week. I am awake but not yet wanting to be awake. I think of things like – work. What must I remember and in what clothes will I need to dress? Jeans might be my friend.
Summer seems like yesterday, or at least just weeks before. The days are growing darker though. And colder. More wet – and now filled with ochre, mustard and rusts. No more shades of green; at least not the bright and happy shades. As the leaves keep coming down though, they threaten to strip bare all the color, exposing branches, open sky and a scattered mess of the backyard beyond our fence. It reminds me, we forgot to buy bamboo to fill the voids that will soon become our view since the beautiful, old growth trees next door were taken down. They have left a void which will need, slowly, to be built back up with new growth, new life and new beauty as seasons pass.
I am also reminded that somehow I missed August; perhaps buried in work instead. I neglected to buy a crate of nectarines for freezing and an extra bag of cherries to make a batch of sauce. The cherry sauce I like to pair with Christmas fish or a thick loin of venison at the new year. I didn’t fully enjoy the summer crop of tomatoes this year, something that usually brings me enormous joy. Eating them sliced with only the grain of one large sea salt flake crumbled beneath my fingers to coax out the intensity that could also, easily be enjoyed with none. Mixing them diced, into a bowl with olive oil, flavored lightly by garlic, basil and chilies. I can eat this by the spoonful but might share it with a bowl of homemade pasta too.
I missed signs that farmer’s markets were winding down. Old news now but I was absent for the last few. I must have been resting my tired body instead trying to cope with the hectic weeks that left me feeling drained. I missed out on the perfect egg, pints of berries, blossoms – of zucchini and loads of satisfaction.
The kind of satisfaction I get from feeling my bag pressing downward toward the ground as it fills up with our weeks’ dinner. The kind that leaves me connected to the community and to the food on my plate. That of sitting down to the perfect meal, the ordinary meal or just cooking something fresh for someone I love.
Not the kind of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. With that comes the exhaustion. I visited one of my completed projects this week to oversee the last of the late installations. I thought I would feel more satisfaction from the closure but it conjured up exhaustion instead. All the time spent orchestrating each experience, fretting and caring about every detail, every choice, every outcome. What does it all mean in the end? I like to hope that the passion I put into my design work results in equal amounts of meaning to those who experience and live in the spaces I help to create for them (as I know it does when I cook). Perhaps that is why I love to cook. The process is therapeutic in its’ execution. It is creative, fulfilling and short-lived. And at the end of a meal I can know that I have shared a part of me with people that appreciate my efforts, long or short as the efforts might have been. Each taste and every flavor stays with me and helps me understand nuances of improvement that are easy to explore again; as long as I don’t let the season pass.
Somehow, as this season passed, I absently neglected to fill our plates with fish. December will creep in quickly now even though last I blinked it was only June. Perhaps I missed July as well. Halibut is going into hibernation soon; at least the fishing for it is, which means I missed another season. We’ve had it only twice this year. Not counting the freshest catch that filled our plates so often in the first weeks of May and the last of April.
I do love true cod more, but there is something about the retreat of halibut that sends me into cravings for its’ clean and mild flavor, its’ delicate, flaky meat that if treated properly slides off your tongue leaving a feeling of happiness. If cooked too long though, tastes of flavorless chicken instead. I thought I missed my chance as October turned to November and the weeks went by again. Gemini claimed to have some in this weekend though, of the same caliber as that which we gobbled up this spring (my favorite time for fresh halibut and salmon). I put my dibs on enough for dinner, yet walked away with a little more (perhaps Buddy or Ginger called it in).
The halibut was every bit as good as promised; coming from Gemini, it always is. As we sat down to dinner last night, I bit into a little taste of Spring. I closed my eyes and let its’ flavor conjure up new beginnings. Spring will come again next year so, for now, I must concentrate on Fall.
Luckily, the end of halibut gives way to other treasures from the sea. Tonight we’ll feast on crab… and prawns (yes, three fish in the basket again). Not as ordinary as it might sound. These are from Alaska, yet being from Alaska, I never ate the likes of these.
Fresh king crab, never frozen; after trying it years before, I have never settled for frozen Kings again. Fresh spot prawns will accompany the crab so I hope Jeff and Linda will join me for my next post in recollecting these rarities of the Bering Sea.
Until then, I leave you with the halibut…
…which, by the way, was seared in olive oil after being well dried with kitchen towels then seasoned with sea salt plus fresh ground pepper. Stars aligned, it did reach the perfect temperature before being flipped quickly onto the other side to cook briefly, in the oven, before being slipped onto warm dinner plates. The plates were dressed with crispy potatoes, Castelvetrano olives and parsley; all doused together in lemon juice; haricot vert cooked just crisp-tender laid beside.
A simple prep for a complicated day; hopefully this leads the way to a restful weekend.