There aren’t many food places in this world as mythical as the Tokyo Fish Market. Here, all the strangely alien beings from the other side of the ocean are dredged up to meet the eater face to face, eyeball to eyeball.
On one side is the imminent disappearance of a species, and on the other side is the honed cultural art form of sushi making. Just as in another era, the samurai were driven towards achieving perfection in the art of war, sushi chefs such as the legendary Jiro are driven towards an ephemeral ideal in the art of sushi making.
One of the challenges of the 40 days is the struggle to bring concrete meaning to abstract ideas. I am in the second week, the week of vitality. And I’m finding it a little difficult to wrap my mind around what vitality actually is. I know that the word “vitality” comes from the Latin word for “life.” When I think of vitality, I think of green first, then I think of many different colors. Baptiste, the main 40 days instigator, doesn’t spend a whole lot of time actually defining vitality, but he mentions that a person doesn’t have to go on vacation to find vitality within themselves. And earlier this week, one of my many yoga teachers said that there is vitality in backbends because in backbends we open ourselves up to the world.
The vitality of thought is adventure. Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.
-Alfred North Whitehead
But none of this is enough for me. I still am uncertain about what vitality looks like, concretely. Vitality is energy, and vitality is life. Life is the blood pumping away in our veins. Vitality seems such an elusive thing, something fleeting and hard to grab a hold of. And even though I don’t completely understand what it is, I’m pretty sure I could use some more of it.
“What hunger is in relation to food, zest is in relation to life.”
-Bertrand Russel, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)
Here’s a question:
What brings you vitality?
Here is another question, possibly the same question, but certainly more dangerous than the first:
*This list is a working draft. I don’t expect it to ever be complete.
Baron Baptiste has a much clearer idea of what vitality means when it comes to food. According to Baptiste, fresh fruits and vegetables have vitality.
Baptiste references the produce in Chinatown markets, which I know from experience is definitely worth appreciating. I’ve taken the liberty of scrolling through my archives and compiling a list of recipes that bring concrete ingredients to the nebulous idea of vitality.
As revealed by my over-enthusiastic use of a filter on the photo, this recipe is from the deep archives, originally published in 2013. But it is still delicious. I think, in my older maturity and wisdom, I would rather add thyme as my leaf of choice to add to this fruit salad. There’s just something about thyme and blackberry together. Something vital, I guess.
The whole thai basil, mint, mung bean sprouts, lime, sesame seed oil, fish sauce, avocado flavor profile is one that I love to compose on a fresh green leaf canvas. The only thing that would make this salad even better would be some rice noodles and grilled chicken. Thai chilies or cracked red pepper could probably create more vitality. Whatever that means.
Before I saw the Boqueria Market, I heard about the colors. All of the colors of all of the fruit in the world. And I read that the market was the stomach of Barcelona.
I wandered my way into the Boqueria market on my first day in Barcelona, and I returned to the market ever y day I was in the city. I drank freshly squeezed kiwi juice, ate tiny yellow plums, and ordered a parrillada verdura from one of the stands that grill up the fresh fish and harvestings of the market. It reminded me how much beauty there is in simplicity if you have good ingredients and a little bit of technique.
My grilled vegetables were pimiente de padron, charred on a high heat, asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, red pepper, and Chinese eggplant. All grilled in olive oil, doused in a bit more after the cooking, and sprinkled with the flakiest salt. Simple.
I learned from this meal, I learned a lesson that I think I have learned many times before, but I keep forgetting. I’ll be imitating this meal in my kitchen for a long time.