Long thinking: Or, how making miso is like making babies.

I slept for fifteen hours last night, recovering from an intense marathon birth. The labor went overnight and when dawn came, we realized that we had an incredible view of the Boston skyline rising above the Charles river. I could see rowers out on the river before the sun was up, skating over it like water bugs. It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I had ever seen; the sky was on fire, and the dawnlight painted her in coral-red. She’d made a sign to tape on the clock, not wanting to see the time passing. It read “I’m fine.” The idea for it came to her in a dream. So, some magical things, joyful things, but still intense. When he was born at last, I was shaking hard from the adrenaline and my eyes were full of tears. My God, women are strong.

I started a crock of miso the morning that this mama went into labor. The miso will be ready in a year, when her son turns one. In six months I can start checking it, scraping aside the thick layer of salt on top to see what the chickpeas and barley are doing beneath. Making miso is a little bit like making a baby; it requires patience and vision, it brings anticipation and reward. I’ve never prepared anything like this before; six weeks for an herbal tincture is probably the longest, though gardening is an apt comparison.

I look around at my friends and students who are pregnant, each of them engaged in the long think. That’s what it is, a long, long think. Conception begins with an idea, to conceive of a thing before it’s physically conceived. A few days ago I thought about making miso. A year from now I’ll be eating miso. I’ll bring her a jar as a gift, a memory of conception.

Here are some pictures of the process of making miso. I used the recipe in Sandor Katz’ wonderful book Wild Fermentation, and purchased the koji from Cultures for Health. There are some shorter misos, too, like a six month sweet miso. I hope to make a few different kinds this winter.

 

 

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