Not to go all Sally Field or anything, but while we’re on the subject of tooting my own horn, I just found out Closer to the Ground won Honorable Mention (2nd place) in the Outdoor Literature category of the National Outdoor Book Awards.
Of course, it’s possible that “honorable mention” is kind of like winning “best personality” at a beauty pageant–or perhaps there were only two entries?–but a quick look at the list of NOBA-honored books from this year, and years past, is pretty awe inspiring. Some truly great books and authors. It’s humbling to be listed in their company.
For this year’s winners and the NOBA reviews, click HERE. Mostly, I’m just thankful to be mentioned alongside these authors, and for the support from my publisher, Patagonia Books, that made it possible. Thank you!
We are now clearly making more withdrawals than deposits from our family food bank. On Saturday we opened the first jar of blackberry jam Skyla and her friends made from berries picked in August. Yesterday we thawed a package of smoked king salmon to serve at a friend’s party. And today I took a whole frozen silver salmon fillet out of the freezer for dinner tomorrow.
The great part about it all is that each package of food we picked or caught or grew, even it’s processed form, reminds us of when we harvested it. The salmon fillet, for example, says “Puget Sound Silver 9.5.13” on it, and just taking it out of the freezer brings back the excitement of Weston fighting it, Skyla netting it, and all of us high-fiving in the bright, late-summer sunshine. The value of these memories is not overlooked here in the dark chill of November.
I took the snapshot above for Lucky Peach (David Chang, of Momofuku fame’s gonzo foodie magazine) a while back, but thought I’d share it here as well. Kind of captures the spirit of the season. The question now, as it is every year, is will our supply last until we’re once again making deposits? Thankfully, it’s not a question of survival. The good stuff doesn’t last long around here.
The wind blows, trees fall, and I have to be ready to run out and procure next winter’s wood supply. And I’m still working at hauling away the rounds I left in our neighbor’s yard, too. Thankfully, they’re patient people. Slow going, but we’re getting there. Only four more cords and we should be good…
Of course, I also have to make space. So most mornings before work, I try to split a few rounds, and when the pile of split wood gets big enough, I spend a few sessions stacking. Good to get the blood pumping before work, since my unheated office is starting to get pretty chilly. Busting a few rounds staves off the fingers-too-stiff-to-type condition for at least an extra hour. Yet another way firewood keeps you warm.
“Next year,” our neighbor, Mr. Terashita, would say year after year, whenever I asked where he picked the coveted matsutake mushrooms here on the Island. But then he passed away, and his secrets went with him. Of course, I always figured I’d just stumble onto some matsutakes while hunting other mushrooms, but so far, it’s yet to happen. The only people who know where to find ’em locally anymore seem to be the old Japanese guys, and they aren’t talking. At least not to me. I completely understand.
But it leaves me to rely on the kindness of others to slake my craving for these unique, cinnamon-scented fungi. Like the ones in the picture, which are currently on their way to me from my good friend Bruce Hill up in BC. He’s dehydrating the mushrooms for shipping, and I’m stoked to cook with them. Thanks, Bruce!
If you have a secret matsutake spot, or cave in and buy them like I often consider doing, here’s a recipe: Wash and drain two cups of Japanese white rice. Add 2.25 cups of the liquid from rehydrating dried shiitake mushrooms, along with 1/3 cup rice vinegar and two tablespoons of soy sauce. Sprinkle in two generous pinches of kosher salt. Dice two medium sized matsutakes and add to the pot. Then bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes in a covered pot. Other options: for a sweeter finish, add a bit of sugar to taste (as my grandmother did) or a quarter cup of mirin. Some use bonito-dashi broth for the cooking liquid as well. But however you cook it, the result is simply amazing. Umami City! Spread a little of that ikura I posted about a while back over a mound of this rice and you’ll have what Bruce calls “The most Zen meal I ever ate.” Makes me hungry just thinking about it.
So, I’m going to try it with the dried matsutakes from Bruce, and I think it’ll be just as good. Perhaps, if they intensify their flavor during the drying process the way shiitakes do, the rice will be even better.
But if you live near me and know where to find matsutakes, and for some strange reason, want to share, by all means, let me know. But I’m not holding my breath.