I cooked my first and last local wild salmon last week. It was delicious: the texture moist and creamy, flavors well balanced between the briny sea of the fish and the sharp green jingle-jangle of lemon, shallot and herbs that I slathered over the top before baking it in a slow, moist oven. (The recipe and method were from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques which I shamelessly adore.)
It was my first salmon because while I have cooked many things in my life, fish is a rare choice. For years, I was a vegetarian and even after I started eating critters again, I seldom cooked them at home. These days, when I’m in the mood to go all out in the protein realm, I usually go straight to the more terrestrial beasts. No middle ground pescetarianism for me! But Goin’s recipe, which also involves roasted beets and potatoes and dressing the salmon and dandelion greens in a mustard vinaigrette, was hard to resist.
And it’s my last salmon (at least for a while) because there aren’t enough local wild ones to go around anymore. I considered buying one that had been hauled in all the way from Norway, but that’s just about as ridiculous as throwing my fast-food remains out the car window while going 85 down Highway 1. Ditto for anything farmed. Besides, wild salmon is appropriately, prohibitively expensive now.
So this lovely recipe and new discovery will have to wait until, hopefully, the wild salmon population returns to more abundant levels. The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran an article in the Food section about this. They offered alternatives to our local wild salmon, which was nice, but confusing. So until I can sort it all out, I think I’ll go back to peeling fava beans and occasionally throwing a (well-trussed) chicken in the oven.
Eating these days can be complicated and it’s tempting to throw up our hands in frustration and just do whatever we want. But I’d rather be a little puzzled and challenged than so spoiled by unlimited choices that I loose sight of doing what's right. Wisdom is not just for religious enthusiasts and Oprah’s latest. It can and should and does exist in the everyday way we go about our lives. It guides our hands at the supermarket, whispers in our ear at the butchers and dances on the tip of our knives at home in the kitchen. So in honor of all the world's mothers, either swimming in the ocean or walking on the earth or flying in the heavens, may you be happy and wise and, above all, well-fed today!