What is it about cooking that connects us in some primordial way to the essence of our humanity? Maybe it has to do with the deeply fulfilling acts of nourishing and nurturing. Or perhaps it speaks to our core as natural born creatives, and the drive we innately feel to discover and actualize.
But no matter how you slice it (pun unabashedly intended), for many of us being in the kitchen feels like one of the most authentic articulations of self — a place to live out the joyful trifecta of self-expression, relaxation and play. And while the last couple of months have unfolded as a weird blend of stress and uncertainty, I think it’s fair to say that for a lot of people, the kitchen has been feeling like a last bastion of peace of mind — a safe and happy space where survival turns into art.
As for myself, even though I adored cooking before we found ourselves indefinitely stuck at home, these days being in the kitchen has felt like being on vacation. My pantry has essentially become my passport.
What I mean is that in these times, meals are so much more than just amalgams of ingredients. As I see it, all the dishes we create become vehicles for flavor profiles that can — even for just a blip of a moment — transport us to far away places.
Yes, I currently happen to be confined to a cabin in rural Alaska, but with a bit of miso, sake, mirin and honey as a marinade on a piece of sablefish, I get glimmers of Japan. If I want a trip to Tuscany, I take a fillet and turn to Mozzarella, basil, olive oil and garlic; whereas a slab of smoked salmon on a homemade arepa brings me back to my childhood in Colombia. With cumin and garbanzo beans as a seafood side, I’m on a beach in Tel Aviv; and a griddled sockeye salmon melt makes me feel like wherever I am, everything’s going to be okay.
My point is this: there’s a fine line between tastes and travel, between flavors and flying — and with just a dash of resourcefulness and creativity in the kitchen, you can go anywhere without ever leaving your home. I’m here to say that you can truly transform “cooking in the time of Corona” to “questing during quarantine.” And with that, I invite you to re-think your wild-caught seafood and re-look at your pantry, and see them both as passports to anywhere you want to go.
Pictured above: Pictured: 25 days of some of my favorite culinary questing during quarantine creations — from “Sablefish a la Kyoto” and “Golden Pomodoro Halibut” to “Sinai Sockeye” and “Santa Marta Smoked Salmon.” Note: the beauty of the above is that none of these dishes were crafted from actual recipes, but rather from a sense of impromptu playfulness, open-mindedness, a desire to shatter monotony, and my pure, unbridled determination to forever see the world.