The other day a strange thing happend on the way to the grocery store. My wife and I were lamenting the total lack of quality cinema at our local Blockbuster automated movie machine when a short, powerful and decidedly scrappy-looking fellow strode past us. No matter, the Safeway behind the movie machine was indeed the everyman’s store––the Harris Teeter was across the street next to the pet accessory shop and the Starbucks. But the man stopped, turned and stared intently at the back of our car. Assuming he was yet another Arlingtonian with something clever to say about Sarah Palin upon seeing our Alaska license plates, we paid him no heed. But this man didn’t even mention Sarah Palin, God Bless him, he was interested in the COLD COUNTRY SALMON graphic emblazoned in white on the back window.
“Salmon” he said. I wasn’t sure if it was question or a comment. “Yea” I muttered, still trying to decide if I should go ahead and rent Sharktopus or just give up on American film altogether and rent Amelie again. “You sell salmon” he came back. I told him we did and his eyes lit up. Realizing a movie was just not in the cards that evening I let the dream go and this strange man and I launched into a conversation of escalating intensity about food. He was a charcutier (I Googled it later and found that the word means “the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products such as beacon, ham and sausage”) and his name was Jamie, Jamie Stachowski. We quickly realized we had a lot on common: he liked to make food and I liked to eat it––also that we were both passionate about great food including, but not limited to, salmon.
Then Jamie dropped the bomb––he was well versed in cold smoking salmon. I immediately had to know more. You see, I have been curious about cold smoked fish (lox) for a long time and have just never understood the physics of it. Namely, how on earth does it become cured or cooked without any heat? The answer, obviously, is that it is salted first, which cures the flesh, then after the salt is washed off, the fish is smoked. Jamie had already impressed me, but then he went on to describe how some parts of Europe prefer more of a smokey flavor whole other parts liked it less smokey. OK, this man clearly knew his stuff!
I was hooked, but I had to ask: “where are you getting your salmon?” Although he was using mostly farmed salmon, his embarrassment at having to confess that fact to me made me realize he desperately wanted the real deal. My time to shine! If Jamie could make magic with inferior salmon, imagine what he could do with our fish? The thought boggles the mind! Before racing off to take care of the errands we both had neglected in favor of talking, we vowed to pow wow sometime soon to swap ideas about salmon and its preparation. But I wasn’t kidding myself, my folky knowledge of how to prepare salmon went about as deep as my immediate community growing up in Alaska. When we next meet I will supply the salmon and he would be supply the smarts. Perfect.
See Jamie’s dynamic personality in action in these videos. By the way, he is opening a new shop this winter in Georgetown.