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It takes guts
There was a courageous moment at the rally for peace in Palestine this weekend that calmed nerves that were agitated when a large white man started heckling one of the speakers, spouting racist remarks. But quickly, the crowd opened up and some people came forward to give him the business. The first two people to confront him, barricade him and nudge him out of the rally, were women. I know this is kinda bush league gender determinism but the two women were sorta hot, and I guess it was a bit of that “you got served!” inspirational moment but I thought, “wow how brave.” The simple image of two women approaching a loud man at a public rally made me feel safe and happy. That took guts.
Lately when I listen to my body I hear only my gastrointestinal system. I have been taking bathroom breaks more often, and mornings are long before I feel comfortable leaving the house. A friend with Crohn’s Disease said after the rally when I told her the stress was making me need to take a massive shit, that it sounded like I have IBS. And I mean yes, it wouldn’t take any research to come to that conclusion.
That’s what I mean by having guts, too. I don’t have guts anymore. They are all frantically evacuating my body, leaving just the cumbersome blubber to hang around my vital organs and dysmorphic ego. I want to be in a cocoon of comfort. I don’t want to be an engine anymore. I want to be a lounge. I want to tolerate rest, not suffer the aches of labor.
Guts can be reconstituted, however. It’s an ancient Eastern secret LOL. No but for real, the universe of algae-seaweed has long been a health and culinary resource in Asian cultures, and for me specifically, nothing makes me feel healthier and happier than kombu.
KOMBU 昆布, kelp
I love kombu. As a kid I’d snack on it dry or wet, and looked for it in everything else—as the base of soups, as the okazu at dinner, in New Year’s osechi. You’ll understand my confusion at the phrase kombucha, therefore, which refers to an acidic fruit punch in the US. In Japan, kombucha is a salty hot drink, usually a commercially made powder rendered from dehydrated kelp extract and the msg-adjacent sodium that naturally occurs in seaweeds and hence sea salt, which I am fully in the camp of believing is good for you.
I want to say more about kombu but feel like it could take a hundred years to finish telling you how important it is. What you need to know today is that its flesh and its extracts can give you guts.
Recipe for KOMBUDASHI (this is based on whatever I have in the kitchen most days so you do whatever you want with the ingredients but make sure to follow this general process):
two trade paperback size sheets of dried kombu
2 quarts of water
a big fistful of shaved bonito (katsuobushi) and/or dried anchovies if you do fish
today I added a carrot but you can add other soup roots too if you want. I’d avoid alliums because they will overwhelm the subtlety of the kombu.
shoyu (soy sauce) and maybe some mirin rice wine (which is just sugar let’s be honest, so sugar if you want amami)
alternatively, I have recently started to get into—coconut aminos. Somehow, white orthorexic culture has created one great food byproduct with coconut here. I know. It’s kind of unbelievable. I just made fun of kombucha (also something I happen to drink), and now I’m extolling coconut aminos. Anyway, it can be a great umami-amami combination flavoring for anyone avoiding soy+mirin.
Everyone says to rinse your kombu before soaking it for broth and I dunno…I go both ways, and would say rinse it if it will feel better not to have trace msg but if you, like me, love msg, just leave it. Soak the kombu in the water at room temp for a day. When you withdraw the kombu it should be so slimy it’s impossible to pick up (this is the best thing and don’t you dare be grossed out). Start heating up that kombu extract but never exceed a low boil. Add the dried shiitake and carrot/root veggies. Let that simmer for ten minutes. Add the dried fish and let that simmer for another five. OK and please note: fish forward dashi has a place in the canon. This is a different kind of elixir and that’s why the fish aren’t cooking for very long. Drain the elixir. It should smell like your mom holding you when you’ve been crying.
I think this gives you guts as is, but you can add shoyu or coconut amino at this point. I’d do it to taste per serving, and not season the whole batch.
Secondarily, you can now slice up the hydrated kombu and shiitake and toss it in seasoning to make an excellent okazu (rice accompaniment) or snack.
A warm cup of this kombudashi for your guts, my IBS pals. Cheers.