Work! A four-letter word

One of the ideas at work — oops! — in my novel What’s Left, is work itself.

Most of us tend to think of it as menial labor, I suppose, but it doesn’t have to be. In the story, for example, Cassia’s aunt Pia has a way of making every task fun and meaningful. And Cassia and her brothers and cousins all put in hours at the family restaurant from an early age on.

~*~

Her aunt Nita also had some insights on work. Here’s one I cut from the final version of the book — we simply had more on our plate than we could manage:

Day by day Nita worked her column like a line cook … a station chef. And she dared tell me journalism’s not like an assembly-line job?

~*~

The poet Donald Hall once broke labor out into three kids: work, jobs, and chores. Maybe you’ll see how they differ.

Tell me about something you do for the pure joy of doing it, even though other people might think of as, uh, tedious work.

For some of you, this could be gardening or cabinetry or decorating cakes or arranging flowers or, well, you get the drift. For others it might be an art or sport or public service.

Is it something you also get paid to do? Or could you?

~*~

 

Made my own sashimi!

We’ve once more subscribed to the community fishery’s summer season weekly catch selection, which we pick up every Friday at our natural foods grocery. Often, what’s offered is a sustainable variety not often even sold at the supermarket, but this time, it was tuna. A beautiful, fresh, one-pound sirloin, which indeed looked like a steak.

Yes, sirloin is the term I found used in the recipes.

So far, I’ve never attempted homemade sushi, but looking at our tuna and then the recipes, I took the leap into sashimi, which I first encountered in a four-table Japanese restaurant in San Francisco back in the ’70s and maybe two times since. And yes, that first time remains memorable, even the plum wine accompaniment.

In a restaurant, it appears so daunting. As one recipe said, though, nothing could be further from the truth. Sashimi is a staple dish in Japanese homes.

I had no idea this would be so simple. Using a very sharp chef’s knife, you firmly cut long strips across the grain – no sawing. One swipe! And, by definition, no cooking. Sashimi is raw fish from the ocean, not fresh water.

It just happened that we’re growing daikon radishes for the first time, as an experiment, so I went out to the garden and pulled one, which turned out to be larger than we were expecting. No problem. Came in, sliced it, put those rounds into a ramiken, and covered them in rice vinegar as my side dish.

The dipping sauce was a ramiken of soy sauce mixed with the juice from half a lemon.

That was it. Easier than making a salad, actually.

Accompanied by a cup of sake (which we also chanced to have in the cabinet), this made for one of the most heavenly meals ever, at least from my hand. And this wasn’t even sushi-grade fish, which gets flown immediately to Japan for a much higher price. I can only imagine.

Still, this was fresh, and that’s much of the secret.

Great cuisine is about respecting the ingredients.

Sorry I didn’t take pictures.