“What is REAL, asked the (velveteen) rabbit one day...
Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand...but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
“He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these”
– Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
What is Real? Real is nourishing, for the soul, the heart, the body and the eyes. Real don’t only takes, but it gives back to us. It make us grow, change and evolve. Sometimes lovingly, sometimes painfully. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast. Sometimes the lessons get hard and we get lost. Sometimes so hard, that we give up. And sometimes, if we listen to our hearts, even if the pounding sound is soft but persistent, we might search for it again. Real loves us back.
Real people and Real food are alike. They are not flashy or shiny. They grow slow, they are made of good stuff and they are good for us. We might not find them in the hip and most expensive places, in the crowd of glitter, gold and perfect size or shape. And they are not seen with someone’s eyes – but with their heart.
Once you found them, don’t flip-flop or over-cook them. Let their true beauty shine with little or no intervention. And they...They will give back to you. All their beauty and love.
This summer I had the chance to work with Eliesa Johnson on a project we called ‘the trout photoshoot’. Eliesa is a wonderful human being, full of joy, happiness and positive energy. A photographer and creative extraordinare and a very Real person.
For our project we decided to capture the beauty of locally sourced fish. In my search of the freshest fish, I found Jessie – a gentle humble man who wears his heart on his sleeve and who raises the most delicious trout in the Twin Cities. To get the fish as fresh as possible, I went to his farm and he caught the trout right there for me. While wondering around the fish, the pond and the farm I met Joe OLeary an incredibly talented designer and photographer with whom I had the most wonderful conversation about fish, good food, photography, creativity, wisdom and life. I left the farm with cooler full of fresh fish and with a heart filled with joy. I was a very lucky gal, in a search of fish I found some very real human beings.
Eliesa and I kept the photoshoot simple. We wanted the natural beauty of the fish to shine through. I used the same approach with the recipe. I let the fish to be the star. Minimum ingredients and simple recipe. I baked the trout whole in salt with herbs, oranges and lemons. The salt seals the fish and cooks it perfectly, allowing all the wonderful aromatics of the herbs and citrus to infuse the fish.
I say this all the time, and I really, really mean it... I hope you try this wonderful recipe. You don’t need much for it, not even fancy cooking skills. Just love, a baking pan, some salt and a good fish. Have a wonderful day all and don’t forget to treasure the Real in your life.
Satl-baked fish with citrus and herbs
• 1 (1-1.5 pounds) fresh trout, head + tail, guts cleaned
• 1 box 16 oz. coarse kosher salt
• 1 1/2 cup water
• 1 orange, sliced
• 2 lemons, sliced
• 4-5 sprigs rosemary
• 4-5 sprigs thyme
• 4-5 sprigs fresh parsley
Place the rack in the center the oven and preheat to 400 F.
Mix the salt and water in a large bowl (it should have the consistency of a wet sand). Spread about 1/3 of the mixture on a baking tray, roughly in the same shape and size as the fish.
Spread 1/3 of the lemon and orange slices + half of the herbs on top of the salt layer. Place fish on top of the bed of citrus and herbs and fill the cavity of the fish with the rest of the herbs and half of the remaining citrus. Top the fish with the last citrus slices and pile the rest of the salt by leaving the tail and head picking out. Press salt firmly with hands to create solid crust.
Bake fish for 40-50 minutes until the salt crust is dry, firm and lightly brown at edges.
Let fish cool for 20 minutes, then using a spatula or knife break the salt crust and remove the fish filets.
Serve with salad or a side you love. Don’t forget a glass of white wine!
Note: Try removing the top salt crust in one piece. It will be easy to remove the fish this way. If the fish is stuck and hard to remove in one piece, filet it in the pan. See this post on how to filet a whole fish.