Thu 13 Jan 2011
I used to be afraid to say the words, “I don’t know.” One of my biggest fears was admitting I didn’t know something, whether it was how to scuba dive or where St. Charles was located or how to properly light barbeque charcoals. For a long time I got away with a confident nod and a smile, which would deceive people into thinking I knew what I was talking about when in fact, I had no idea.
There was a particular period in my life where this whole charade became utterly exhausting and more trouble than it was worth. It was shortly after I graduated from college and I was living with roommates in a very hip part of San Francisco called Hayes Valley. Within a few months of living there I befriended a number of people in the neighborhood and became good friends with a couple of guys who lived down the street. Both exuded this almost tangible sense of cool; one had a very exotic and odd Finnish name, even though neither he nor his parents (or grandparents, for that matter) were from Finland. The other was tall and lanky and played guitar and spun records on his Technics 1200s in his spare time. Together they were the hipster poster boys for our stylish little ‘hood: all vintage threads, Swedish minimalism and wispy indifference. All the hipster girls in the neighborhood vied for their attention.
To be fair, they were quite nice and always treated me with care and respect. But they had a very exasperating (while unintentional) habit of dropping obscure literary titles or yet-to-be-discovered band names or TBA gallery openings. I always felt pressure, self-imposed perhaps, to nod knowingly or reply assuredly as they seemed to put people into two categories: Those In the Know, and Everyone Else. So when they mentioned the new German filmmaker whose celluloid study on the perplexing effect of kitten fur on left-wing polyglots was making waves in the indie film circuit, I’d smirk knowingly. Had I heard about the glitter-art party at the no-name speakeasy owned by that guy who runs the Polka record store in Connecticut but keeps a converted warehouse loft for autumn fashion shows in San Francisco? Why yes, yes I had! Keeping up appearances became an arduous task and the worst part about it was that I was effectively making myself more ignorant by pretending to know things I did not.
The thing about saying “I don’t know” is that it’s usually followed by an education, or an explanation at the very least, on the thing you don’t know about. Admitting that I do not know everything is something I had to acknowledge quite publicly after moving here to Ireland, because I literally did not know much about anything Irish when I landed and I had a very short time to figure it all out! Besides being aware of the funny accents and a penchant for potatoes, I was basically clueless about life in this country. Embracing and almost advertising that fact has been a great help in adjusting to life here, and lucky for me Irish people are always eager to help and to fill me in on all that I don’t know. From television licenses and PPS numbers to muppet and Ledgebag, I’m learning…thanks to three simple words: I don’t know.
Miso-glazed Sea bass with Spicy Sesame Buckwheat Noodles
Talk about a case of the I-Don’t-Knows! I recently went shopping for fish with Mountaineering Man and opted to get some locally-caught sea bass at a fish stand at the Moore Street Market in Dublin (inspired by Hugh’s Fish Fight). The fish was whole, and when the woman asked if I wanted the heads cut off, I said yes but felt too intimidated to ask her to fillet them (a case of not speaking up when I should have). When we got back to MM’s apartment and unwrapped the fish, I realized I had NO IDEA how to fillet fish or even where to start. I spent the next 30 minutes sawing away at the poor sea bass (and cursing the whole time) until I had two, very pathetic fillet-type pieces and a handful of fish bits. Thankfully this miso glaze makes even fish bits taste good. Next week I’m going to my local fishmonger for a lesson in filleting fish…stay tuned!
2 sea bass fillets
1 tablespoon miso paste
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
½ red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
4 ounces cabbage, sliced into thin strips
8 ounces buckwheat noodles, cooked and drained (drizzle a bit of sesame oil on it to keep from sticking together)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 small red chili, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 spring onions, diced
Handful of fresh coriander, torn into small pieces
Preheat oven to 160 C degrees. On a baking tray lined with foil, lay out the sea bass fillets. In a small bowl, combine the miso paste and rice wine vinegar to make a thin sauce. Spoon over sea bass fillets and place in the oven, cooking for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through. Do not overcook!
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and cabbage and cook for about 7-10 minutes or until tender. Add in the noodles, sesame oil, soy sauce, chili, ginger, garlic and spring onions and toss together in the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat and add in the fresh coriander. Plate the noodles and top with sea bass fillet.
I guess it comes from our innate need to be accepted and to fit in, but as I got older I realized the only person I was hurting by pretending to know when I didn’t was me.