On the rocks

Spring

April 5, 2024

Spring must have partied hard last year because she was late to rise this year. The cherry trees haven’t bloomed this late in over 10 years. Sandwiched between cold winds and drizzle, we were graced with one bright and balmy day to celebrate them with our Sakura Season guests, enjoying a picnic under the first brave blossoms. On our way home we stopped to explore a local rocky shore and gather our latest seaweed obsession, funori (Gloiopeltis furcata), an aubergine algae with many other names, my favorite of which might just be jelly moss. And it does indeed look like jelly moss, forming glistening mounds over rocks in tidal zones.

Funori was a serendipitous discovery. After an afternoon spent roaming the coast with a very outdoorsy crew during our Vernal Equinox session, we made one last stop to visit a tiny seaside shrine. Everyone scattered on the rocky shore to explore. Our van driver who had taken quite an interest in our actives that day, going so far as to pitch in to gather wood for a beach fire, wandered the shore with us. He started pointing out all the different kinds of seaweed growing there, hijiki growing on the rocks and wakame dancing in the waves just offshore. He then pointed to a mound of funori, new to me but about which he seemed to know everything, including its culinary uses as both edible and garnish, as well as its role as a sizing and binding agent in textiles. 

We thought it looked utterly delicious and gathered a few handfuls to take home. That night, with our guests around the table, we added the funori to our favorite spring version of hot pot nabe featuring ruby red slices of wild boar, snowy white enoki mushrooms, and vibrant green wild watercress. The simmered funori was magnificent, basking in the rich boar broth and emerging with a crisp and springy bite. I can’t wait to gather more, and to also collect wakame and hijiki, two types of seaweed that I had never foraged before but that I will likely never pay for again. It’s just far more fun to throw on boots and say hello to the sea while dodging waves and collecting slippery seaweed.

I’m so grateful to all of my teachers, from my mother-in-law to our kaiseki chef family friend, and now to our regular salon taxi driver Takashi Setoh. Every person who shares their knowledge with me enriches not only my life but deepens the experiences we can offer our guests. That spontaneous moment, learning from an unexpected source, embodied the true spirit of the salon as a place where ideas and information flow freely in all directions among every single participant. 

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