My friend, Brandon, recently told me that when we are born we have smooth brains. As we get older, acquire knowledge, information and experiences, our brains become wrinkly. I guess as we get older everything gets wrinkly and crevice-y. Not unlike rivers, valleys, and land in general. The Grand Canyon is a very good example of this. Here we have nearly two billion years of the Earth's geological history exposed as a result of the Colorado River and its tributaries cutting their channels through layer after layer of rock.
A week or so ago I was riding out to Malibu with Ryan. As we were zipping along the PCH, listening to Metallica very, very loudly (is there any other way?), I was suddenly overwhelmed with a flood of visceral memories. As we drove along we passedThe Reel Inn where I took my Dad for a dinner while it was so misty and foggy we couldn’t even see the water from our table. It was beautiful. Or Topanga Canyon where I spent most Sunday brunches when I lived out here for a Summer while I was in college. I remember those days being with Emma and Sam. Or that house where I was sent to photograph a brother and sister portrait for their parents. Turns out Heather and Danielle actually pranked me for a Girls Behaving Badly episode. Or that wonkymotel on the left where I ended up at 1am with a friend and a backpack filled with wine. We watched episodes of I love Lucy on the little TV and ran around the property like wild animals.
Remembering and feeling all of this again made me happy, sad, longing, empty and completely full. And a little bit old.
I think sometimes about the places we live. The walls we live within. What has happened here? If these walls could talk sort of thing. I wonder about who has loved here, lost here, died here. What sort of wild parties, famous and infamous people have been here? What babies, songs or paintings have been born here?
When I was younger (young enough to still be living in Richmond, Va.), my dad and I were driving down the street and stopped at a light in front of a random, lonely little house in The Fan. He looked at it wistfully and told me about an awesome party, a wild night, he had spent in that house in his twenties. Wow. This little old house? I’ve never even noticed it. And yet every time he drives by it he is taken back to some specific night in his past. How many other people in the world have attachments to that old house for whatever reason? And now I have an attachment, albeit vicariously, to that house.
Much like brains filled with information, causing their physicality to change or actual land changed over time, water, and air - buildings, streets, and places also have a tactile memory for us. They, too, are topographic. All of the traffic over time in all these places makes them their own kind of wrinkly. It somehow reminds me of the Family Circus cartoons. You know, the maps with trajectory using dotted lines?
Obviously food has a special place in our hearts and minds. Restaurants, kitchens, dining rooms, dishes, flavors, smells and textures. The dish I’m sharing with you here is another one of the first ones my dad taught me how to cook. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
Sort of like that drive out to Malibu, I don’t have this dish very often. As a result, each time I do I am taken right back to my kitchen on Grove Avenue and I can hear my dad explaining how to prepare it while sharing with me the stories of the times he had made and the guests who partook.
This version has been wildly modified from the original. My dad doesn't even remember how he prepared it initially. The relish he made was Asian-like and incorporated very different produce than I have used here. So, while, over time and use, this dish has changed - become wrinkly, even - its taste and the memory it elicits remains steadfast.
Grilled Salmon with Market Relish over Jasmine Rice
2 ½ lb. salmon filets
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
dash of fish sauce
½ cup chopped shallots
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
½ heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved (different colors, if possible)
1/4 cup chopped Hungarian Frying peppers
1/4 cup tomatillos, quartered
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded & chopped
2 tbsp fresh basil
1 cup Jasmine rice
2 cups water
salt & pepper to taste
Wash rice in several changes of cold water in a bowl until water is clear, then drain in a sieve. Combine with water and salt in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until rice is tender and water is absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Heat oil in sauce pan, add shallots and peppers. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until somewhat soft. Add garlic, cucumber, wine and fish sauce. Cook down for another 5 or so minutes. Add tomatillos, tomatoes and basil. Salt and pepper to taste.
See photos for assembly and serve with a smooth Sancerre or a dry rosé.