I was having a talk with JJ once about writing and he began talking about a poem he was working on about Hanuman.
“He is the god that is historically associated with our family,” he said casually, with a hint of pride underneath. He had mentioned it many times, but he acted as if it this was the first.
“Yes, he’s like your Aumakua…”
He immediately jumped on the defensive. “They are nothing alike,” he insisted in a strong voice,”You have to be careful, they are two different cultures. It’s not the same. ”
Now, I’m quite certain that JJ wouldn’t know what an Aumakua was if it bit him on the ass. For those of you who don’t know about either Indian or Hawaiian mythology, Hanuman is “a general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers” who is considered to be an incarnation of the divine and who JJ associates with his family’s historical and mythological roots. An Aumakua is a family god, often a deified ancestor which manifests it’s self as an anthropomorphic animal and is considered an incarnation of divinity. The use of the word ‘like” in a sentence to compare two things is a simile, which means they are similar but not exactly the same. Indeed, Hanuman is like his Aumakua.
He also mentioned once when he returned from Europe that it was so nice to hear women talking who didn’t say “like” between every other word. I went on with some silly comment as I thought it best to avoided mentioning that he didn’t speak French and he wouldn’t know what linguistic habits French women have which are like saying “like” even if they, like, bit him on the ass to draw his attention to it.
I use little snippets about him in this blog, not because he is special, but because he is so very average. He is the young Everyman, the stock character, the Raj Q. Public of his generation. We all like to think we are special. We classify our skin-color, the region we live in, especially our mythologies and even our recipes. But many places and cultures have similar dishes even though they are half a world apart. In fact, there are many things across many cultures that are a lot alike.
Now, I think Olympia is special and I think it is not special at all. It is an allegory for everyone’s home, everyone’s place of being. If you are going to cook, then a realization of the unity that underlies and supports our every day experiences of duality and differences is an essential ingredient. Variety may be the spice of life, but unity is a main ingredient.
I think that this idea of a Solstice holiday is an important one, because it is a human experience. Which ever way we choose to interpret this celestial event in our own cultural, symbolic language the metaphorical reference is still very much the same – the cyclical nature of life, the universe and everything. I’ve tried to find some food stuffs for this Solstice celebration that are as universal as possible. Fish is one that I recommended. Many cultures, ancient and modern, have fish as a staple in their diet. After a bit of research I found that Herring or Mackeral is the most commonly consumed fish in the world. If you want to get creative with this fish, some common themes that will help it work for you are 1) to add a grain of some sort, 2) lemon, 3) salt and 4) a light or lemony alcohol to accompany it. If you’re just looking for a straight-up recipe, here are some of my favorites:
Mackeral (Saba) Sushi (GF)* from http://tedsrecipes.blogspot.com:
• 1 fresh mackerel – two fillets (don’t bother to fillet the fish yourself, your fish shop could do that)
• 2,5 dl Japanese rice vinegar
• 2 tablesp sugar
1. Remove the little ‘left over’ bones from fillets with a pair of tweezers (or pincers). You will feel the bones when you stroke lengthwise along the middle of the fillet. It’s a nasty little job but you have to do it.
2. Salt fillets on fleshy part. Leave it for 3 hours.
3. Mix vinegar and sugar till sugar is completely dissolved. Wash off salt from fillets.
4. Put vinegar in a flat dish and add the fillets. Make sure not to bend the parts (the delicate skin will get ruined later). Fish should be totally immersed.
5. Put in fridge to marinate for at least 36 hours.
6. Carefully dry fillets (take care, skin is now very vulnerable).
Put fillets with fleshy part on carving board and cut slices of 0,5 inch. The fish is ready for Sushi.
Add some finely chopped spring onion on top.
I would also recommend about 1/4 paper thin slice of lemon between your fish and your rice. This would be great with Saki, a Lemon Drop or a Vodka Martini with a twist of Lime.
I thought I would take a cue from Jamieoliver.com and make a nice Meditreanean Pasta myself:
• Lemon parpadella
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 1 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
• 1 tbsp. small capers
• a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped, stalks finely sliced
• 1 packet kippered herring
• a small handful of vine cherry tomatoes, quartered
• 1 lemon
Put a large frying pan on a high heat and add a few good lugs of olive oil. Once hot, add the garlic, chilli, capers and parsley stalks. Cook for a couple of minutes until just starting to colour. Add the tomatoes and squeeze in the juice of a lemon. Toss this all together with the Herring, sprinkle with parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
I think I would like this dish with a good, buttery Chardonnay.
For a classic Scandinavian fare on the eve of the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun (i.e. Christmas Eve) try some Pickled Herring and Oysters on the half shell (GF)*, and wash it down with a good citrus beer.