During the summer of 1995, a year before our son Keiran was born, we spent most of a very hot July in Davis California, living at Barthel’s Mobile Ranch in the trailer of a friend. We worked part time on a couple of farms. Eat Wells farmers owned by Nigil Walker and his then wife Frances. River Dog Farms, still in it’s infancy, owned by Tim Meuller and Trini Campbell. We sold sweet pea flowers at the Marin farmers Market on Sundays for Capey Farm, owned by the late Kathy Barsotti. Mostly we just fucked around. We road our bikes around Davis’ very bike friendly streets. We drank afternoon beer in the Cantina. It was so hot during the day the candles in the trailer would soften and bend, bowing to touch there wicks on the mantle . We spent long luxurious afternoons cooking. After dinner, Alex would read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez to me while I stood in buckets of ice water and did the dishes.
It was during this summer that we made our first misozuke. We strung turnips up to air dry under the shade of the front porch. We purchased a goldfish bowl to use as our fermenting vessel . We buried the shriveled roots in a dark rich barley miso and stored them for aging. For the future.
One evening we found ourselves under the influence of an injudicious amount of liquid LSD. Come to think of it, I’m not sure that my middle aged self knows what a judicious amount of acid would be. Well, as you might imagine, much about that evening is fuzzy, but a a few things stand out. Around midnight we took a walk around the trailer park and stumbled across a yard absolutely fecund with garden gnomes. We stood there astonished, and it started to rain. It never rains in the summer in California. Later back in the trailer safe and sound, if a little damp, we sat on the kitchen floor and peered over the top of a bowl of miso, marveling at the swirling sediment at the bottom of the bowl. At that moment, staring into the endlessly shifting abyss , we were overcome. We pledged an eternity of love and commitment to each other.
OK OK. We were young. And as much as it’s a cringe-worthy story it should noted that a couple of years later in a decidedly more sober occasion, with our year old son in attendance, we would again pledge our commitment to each other, in a ceremony on the bluffs above Lake Michigan in the company of our friends and family. On the alter was a bowl of miso.
Matthias Merges of Yusho in Chicago once posted a picture of a bowl of miso on Twitter. He said that he wanted to preserve its structure, not the liquid per say but the structure of the sediment . We understand the impulse, after all we have spent our lives in pursuit of that elegant and shifting architecture of wonder and love, as it moves through brine and time. God Speed Chef!