We left Seattle nearly six months ago, and the shock has still not worn off. We live in a quaint Jersey town (which I, in my ignorance, didn’t even know was a thing). It was settled nearly a century before the country gained independence.
There are Victorian mansions with ghosts, colonials with Roaring Twenties finishings that have withstood the test of time — which, in our present moment, offer a reminder of the glory days — and a storybook village that checks all the boxes: organic store, local bookshop, Italian pizzeria, Italian pastaria, vegan bakery, local coffee shop, a two-screen movie theater, Starbucks.
The people are creative and engaged. There is a local mercantile, a coworking space abuzz with photographers and writers, and a school where adults can take classes on a variety of trades, languages, and topics. There is a nearby forest reservation with a school for kids to commune with nature, and there is a humanist society that offers children classes on morality. On Saturday, the local library is hosting Ken Burns. I feel like I dreamt this place up.
And yet… I miss the sound of the rain falling pitter, patter on the rooftop shingles. I miss the moist air scented with sharp pine, a warm hug from the universe while you hunker down in your raincoat and squint through the water to see where you’re heading. I miss serious coffee shops with bespectacled, darkly dressed customers reading paper books and sipping warm cups of joe with the interest of a vintner sampling her first barrel. I miss the local food. I miss salmon.
(Today’s Daniel Tiger episode suddenly feels so apropos: “Sometimes, we have two feelings at the same time, and that’s okay.”)
Our town grocery (i.e. Amazon’s Whole Foods) had a special on farmed Atlantic salmon and I decided to give it a go — mostly to see whether I could taste a difference from the stuff pulled out of PNW waters. Salmon is so plentiful there that you can watch streams of fish gliding up the ladders of the city locks during migration season, melding together to form a metallic wave akin to sheet music.
This East Coast variety was a pale pink in comparison to the brilliant orange of Northwest salmon, and it definitely didn’t have the bold flavor of the latter either. Still, I did make a delicious dinner of it.
I soaked a cedar plank, massaged garlic oil on both sides of the fillet, sprinkled kosher salt, paprika, mustard, black pepper and dried oregano. I baked it at 425 until the smoke alarm caught whiff of my ignited cedar, pulled out the plank and finished the job on foil in a total of about half an hour. It went over a pile of cous cous, nestled in sauteed spinach, and coated with a generous drizzle of a fig vinegar-agave reduction. Of course it didn’t need all that (garlic, salt and pepper would have been enough), but B was home early and the kids were enjoying his company during bathtime, so I had fun.
I improvised, I cooked for myself, and it was delicious. The crispy salmon skin cracked in my mouth with a burst of saltiness and umami, bringing to my senses the illusion of a bite of Puget Sound.
An illusion only, of course, because the salmon was raised on a farm. And I, my friends, am 10 miles from the Turnpike.