Once upon a fall, a crow perched itself on the shoulder of a ginkgo tree. Its crown thinned as one by one its golden leaves fluttered free from their branch. Some found rest in the freshly frostbitten grasses below, others followed the wind to where even the crow could not see.
“Foolish! Foolish! How utterly futile!” jeered the crow.
“What makes you say that?” asked the tree.
“You spend all summer growing leaves, only for them to leave! Woe to you! Woe to you!” the crow cackled.
The tree chuckled, shrugging off a few more leaves. “Little one, you are mistaken. I have but gained from their beauty, the sweetness they make of the sun and rain, the music they play in the gentle breeze.”
“Excuses, excuses. They can do that without leaving you bare in the cold!” the crow sneered.
The tree smiled and replied, “Little one, my leaves are not as your feathers. When they fall, they enrich my roots. Should I try to keep them, I would freeze to death. They must leave, for that is by the Maker’s design.”
The crow cocked its head to one side, then to the other. Finally, it asked, “But aren’t you lonely?”
The ginkgo replied, “Lonely, no. Wistful, perhaps.”
At that, the winds suddenly seemed to lessen their haste and lean in ever so slightly, as if to listen. The ginkgo continued, “But a tree is a tree, it follows not where the wind goes. And behold, I stand upon a carpet of gold.”
Salmon runs begin late summer and continue through fall, sometimes into early winter for no other reason but to procreate. Their will for life condenses with each mile upstream despite their bodies’ metamorphosis into the shape of death. Having spent the majority of my memorable childhood in the Pacific Northwest, their annual migration is the hark of fall, signaling the turn of the seasons, assuring me that the earth still keeps its rhythm – not to make right the sin of complacency, but to provide what little comfort it can.
These days, I find the crowds to be out of touch with the land that hosts them. Seasonality is reduced to mere pumpkin spice, the swells and shrinks of nature mistaken as inflation’s work (not to discredit the latter). Plain language is good, but ignorance is not. As diners, we have the responsibility of at least trying to understand where food comes from, and its true cost – not one with a dollar sign attached, but the wholistic, comprehensive cost of life, of resources, of time, of labor. Only when we pause and critique the cost of our appetites can we begin to understand the gravity of our insatiety.
Chum Shoyu Ikura
- 2 pounds fresh chum salmon sujiko (roe sac)
- 720 g sea salt
- 18 L hot tap water (52 degrees C)
- 400 ml sake
- 100 ml shoyu
- 80 ml mirin
- 10 g dried konbu, broken into inch-long pieces
- In a saucepan, bring the sake, shoyu, and mirin to a boil and remove from the heat immediately. Cool to room temperature and set aside. This is the shoyu marinade.
- In a large pot, bring 4 L of hot tap water and 120g salt to 70 degrees C (the key here is to only allow water with 3% salt concentration to come into contact with the eggs so that the eggs maintain their internal pressure).
- Break open the sujiko lengthwise and submerge it in the hot salt solution.
- Grab hold of the sujiko firmly using a pair of chopsticks, and swirl it around vigorously until the eggs detatch themselves from the membrane. If there are some stubborn ones clinging on, just gently pull them off.
- Using your hands (I like to wear a pair of surgical gloves while I do this, but you can use your bare hands if they can stand the heat), agitate the eggs in the water as if you were washing rice. Remove any visible bits of membrane and drain off the scummy water.
- Add 2 L of hot tap water (52 degrees C) mixed with 60g of salt to the drained eggs.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 until all the bits of membrane and scum have been removed (this should take 5-7 iterations). End on step 4, with the eggs drained.
- Add a couple ladles of the shoyu marinade to the drained eggs and let them sit, loosely covered for about 30 minutes. Drain the eggs well using a large sieve.
- Add the eggs to a sealable container and add the remaining marinade as well as the konbu. The eggs should be just submerged, if not, you may need to make and add more marinade.
- Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving with steamed rice or anything really (omelet, toast, pasta, etc).
- This will keep in the fridge for up to a week, or sealed in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
Enjoy, and may your goodbyes, be it to a dear friend, a close kin, a buried dream, or a missed lane sprout wings and lighten your shoulders.