Once upon a time there was a wonderful woman named Jan, whose Oregon family did loads of Oregon-y things, such as digging for clams on the Oregon Coast, trolling for Dungeness crabs in Siletz Bay, and, occasionally, fishing for salmon in the waters that surround Portland.
Oregon was her bounty, and she shared it in turn with a bunch of schlubbs like us who went and had a baby and can’t find our way to the bottom of the diaper pail, let alone to a boat.
This Jan showed up on our doorstep one day and gifted us with a roughly three pound piece of salmon that she had just pulled from the waters five hours before.
I had never seen a piece of fish quite so beautiful. It glistened with the waters of the river, its skin firm and ruby red,its edges sliced pristinely into a chunk of hunka hunka burnin’ fish.
We like salmon very much in this house. We sometimes drip some soy sauce and a little peanut oil on the top, or slice some green leeks over it and poach it in some parchment.
But this salmon was different.
All this salmon asked for was a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and a quick wrist flourish of ground pepper. I baked it until it was just cooked in the middle and cut two smaller pieces from it to serve for dinner.
It is not a stretch for me to say that this salmon was — by leaps and bounds — the most delicious thing I have ever tasted in my life. At one moment, as I flaked yet another forkful off of the fish, I felt as if I could feel its life blood coursing through its sinews.
Adam explains it this way:
“You could distinguish between the myomeres and even sarcomeres. It tasted like it was still alive. It was the difference between eating a salad and eating a stew. That fish tasted like it was still pulsing.”
The salmon didn’t make it through the night. I had my serving, then Adam had his, then he had another, then he had another, then another until there was nothing left on the plate but a wrinkled, drying but still sparkling skin.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Except for the salmon, of course.
Suck it, salmon, I don’t feel bad.