It was almost midnight.
I found myself in the kitchen picking the flesh out of amberjack heads which I made the soup out of. This flesh is not for me and my family. This is for our cats. I know I can eat it. It’s probably still good. But I boiled it for 1 hour to extract the juice out to the soup. It should be pretty empty.
But I can’t just throw away the heads and the bones.
It was too “Mottainai”.
Mottainai is a Japanese term. It is an adjective. Not deserving to go to waster and worth respect.
It was first introduced to the world by Prof. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental activist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
Prof. Maathai emphasized on reuse, reduce, recycle, and “respect”. She found this one Japanese word that says it all. She used this “Mottainai” as the keyword for the world environmental campaign.
I have never realized it was such a big deal. My mother always used this word to correct my actions to treat things wrongly. The teaching is in my bones.
I deeply respect what I take from mother nature. I try to make sure nothing goes to waste out of it. And to enjoy every bits and pieces with it. Not just eating it, but also in the process of cooking it.
So I usually fillet the fish first unless I’m doing the whole fish cooking. I leave the fillet for sashimi or other cooking. I make soup out of the heads and bones. After draining the soup, I pick flesh out of the heads and bones for my cats. Finally I return the bones to the nearby river, back to the nature’s recycling system. I know crabs love it because I sometimes trap them with those bones in that mangrove river!
It’s a lot of work. And I usually do it at night when I come back from work and have dinner a couple days after fishing. So I usually have to start around 10 pm and a lot of times it goes on to midnight.
It’s funny but I don’t find it so stressful actually. It’s a ritual to me.
So here I am, sitting on a high chair in the kitchen, picking flesh out of fish head for my cats. I almost feel like I’m praying. Or like drawing a mandara or something. I’m no religious man. But I think I understand what meditation brings. Digging into the head and picking bits and pieces, I’m happy as a clam. You can actually get quite a big chunk of meat from one head.
And of course, my boys know that something very fruitful is just around the corner. Everytime I come and stand in the kitchen, they come and wait with full expectations in their faces. But they are good boys. They can behave. They don’t mess in the kitchen because they know their Daddy disciplines quite seriously when it comes to food.
Enjoy your ocean gentlemen. In any way you like, but with respect and gratitude.