What Fish Fillets Teach Us

This week's Bon Appetit recipe is Fish Fillets. (I used thyme as I did not have basil on hand.)

When I was making this dish, which took a half hour at most, I was struck by the simplicity of it. I am used to whipping out my tall mason jars full of whole black cardamom, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, cumin, star anise, et cetera, that I measure and pour into my spice grinder or a marble mortar to crush. I am familiar with taking upwards of 20 minutes to get onions just the right shade of golden brown. When I cook, the whole house needs to be aired for I fear that the aromas of garlic sputtering in hot oil, spices sizzling upon meat, and rich gravies shining with a touch of butter and/or ghee, will seep into the walls, furniture, clothes, even my pores! 

When I started this blog (and frequently since), I treated food as a malleable metaphor spanning a medley of emotions, representing life, love, families, relationships. It works for me. I am able to reflect on and understand the tangled mess of questions, insecurities, and fears I struggle with when I am cooking. The act of concentrating on combinations of flavors, focusing on creating something delicious from humble ingredients is both gratifying and therapeutic. 

Admittedly, the period of reflection while making this particular dish was rather short. Simple in preparation, it was anything but when it came to presentation and flavor. We focus so much on the details every day, on all that goes wrong, on disappointments, entanglements, losses, and heartaches. I think we lose sight of things that actually work perfectly, like all sections of the orchestra coming alive together and creating a symphony. Life, always, presents us with small blessings that are taken for granted or overlooked entirely because negativity is enticing - juicier, more exotic. 

When I was preparing these fish fillets, I was humbled by them, surprised by them. Packaged in pieces of parchment, with the most basic of ingredients to impart flavor to this dish, it turned out to be delicious and refreshing. That was unexpected. I am used to thinking that complication equals better. This dish completely debunked that theory of mine. Sometimes simple things are all you need. Sometimes going back to the basics is good. 
It is true for food. And it is true for life. Go back to the beginning of beautiful things with this dish. Appreciate the simple things in life, and remind yourself, "Yes, they are worth it."

Photos by Rebecca McCue