This traditional rice ball is called an onigiri. It is as Japanese as apple pie is American. When my parents and I first arrived in America, my mom used to pack them in my lunch box that I used to take to school. Thousands of years ago, the first sushi looked more like an onigiri than a California roll. It was healthier too. No farmed fish laden with chemicals. No fish farms to pollute and damage the surrounding habitats. Brown rice was simply pressed around Omega 3 packed wild fish caught in the river in one’s backyard. The onigiri that is pictured is different from the ones I grew up eating. Firstly, it has, likely, been formed by the expert hands of a Mexican, African American, or Vietnamese chef at Miya’s. It’s, also, a healthier twist on the white rice onigiri the Japanese eat today and harkens back to an ancient pre-white rice time in history. As soon as people began to process whole grains into white rice and white bread they became more nutrient deprived. The onigiri my mother and I eat today contain a medley of whole grains and locally caught wild seafood. Traditions must adapt and change with the times and nothing is more important today than the need to reinvent our traditional ways of living and eating into ones that are more nourishing for our bodies and restorative of our hurt planet. For the next few months we will be featuring onigiri stuffed with locally caught and foraged seafood surprises. I hope you enjoy eating them as we enjoy making them for you!
This morning, we awoke at 4am to dive, fish, and forage. When I am away from the rattle of city, I can hear the sun, the sea, and the wind sing to me “everyday is a gift and a blessing, to be cherished and shared, generously.”
A dozen hours of fishing, followed by hours of scaling, gutting, then filleting, happen before a single slice of fish is served. Some days, not one fish is caught. But that’s okay, because fishing isn’t just about catching ourselves food. We, also, fish to make a connection to the ocean that feeds us and to remind ourselves that all food once was a living thing that died so that we could live.
Each little smelt is picked out of the net by hand. Smelt are on the bottom of the food chain, as far as fish are concerned. As plankton eaters, they are high in heart healthy Omega 3s and low in contaminants that are an issue with larger predatory fish.
We just discovered a bed of invasive wakame and grasileria seaweed that we will be using for tomorrow’s subtidal salad. Seaweed should always be rinsed in seawater because using fresh water will cause the seaweed to lose flavor and nutrients. Just a little piece of information I learned from my mom when I was a kid.
Chef Luis proudly displays his Nigiri Universal creation which is three quarters plant based. For animals it contains, venison instead of tuna, local squid and mackerel, and bluegill sunfish which harkens back to the freshwater origins of sushi: to a time when everything we ate came from our back yard. I consider the sushi that we serve at Miya’s to be more traditional than the sushi that is considered traditional today, which is globally caught seafood smorgasbord.
Also, as part of Le Wind, is tilapia grown by students of BRASTEC in Bridgeport and instead of tuna we have seared venison topped with wild garlic mustard and a ginger roasted sesame Chardonnay sauce. Because humans have encroached on their woods, deer are considered populated.. And unlike livestock, venison high in heart healthy omega 3s and low in saturated fats. Also, wild animals do not contain antibiotics which encourage the growth of resistant bacteria.
One of my favorite foods to eat at Miya’s is our salad. I eat one or two large ones, every day. The veggies and the greens are grown by the Miya’s farm, my mom (in her garden), Yale Farm, and Waldingfield Farm. I do all the foraging for the wild greens. Eating organic and wild plants full of protective phytochemicals, nutrients, fiber, and minerals is vital to good health.
Here’s a sneak peak of the invasive species dish that I made for the article that I wrote for Scientific American Magazine. My work will be featured in the September issue. I’m so happy to be in the magazine because my dad is scientist and I grew up reading Scientific American.
This dish is designed to look like the craggy sea shores where I go hunting and foraging for local invasive species; it’s, also, designed to look like a mammalian heart, with ventricles up on top. The ventricles are made from invasive wakame and invasive common periwinkles, and our proprietary recipe of whole grain sushi rice. The crabs are invasive European green and invasive Asian shore crabs that have been seasoned and oven crisped until their little shells are brittle enough to eat.
Many cultures have believed that the soul resides in the heart; and many still believe, it is the very essence of life. One thing that we are certain of is that the heart is an organ that is vital to physical life. This dish is intended to be a metaphor for life itself. It is both lovely and grotesque, and upon further inspection, it is composed of a series of very complicated relationships. The relationships that invasive species have with the habitats that they occupy are quite complicated too.
Here I am hunting for cicadas with rock star photographer, Andrew Sullivan, who shot this thirty second video showing everyone how to catch these tasty little critters. Cheers friends!