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Stories

From (Island) Farm to Table

 
 

Setouchi Triennale. Shodoshima. Seto Inland Sea.

They found an olive nursery and decided to stop. Nearby was a restaurant and it was named—of course—The Olive Garden. The parking lot was bordered with its namesake. Viewing the olives didn't satisfy like the mandarins and persimmons. There was no real color to admire. Curious, he stole one from a tree. It was bitter. No, astringent. He wondered why he did that.

 
 
 
 

Shodoshima was earning its right as the largest island. Unlike the others, which seemed to have but a few shops and farms, Shodoshima had a recognizable economy. The number of olive oil bottles for sale became less of an oddity. But they weren't looking for olives. Olive oil is for Italians, he tried convincing himself. I want soy sauce.

 
 
 

They parked in front of an open garage of sorts, where a handful of workers were packing bottles into cardboard boxes. Before he could remember the word for tour, one was offered up. Casually, of course. A young man appeared, called for by one of the workers, shuffling down the stairs like a son tasked by his mother to play with their neighbor's little kids.

But first was the dusting. Each of them grabbed a duster and—am I doing this right?—batted at their bodies, beginning with their chests and arms. The tour guide nodded, signaling that they had done it well enough. Dust—gone—all of it. It was the effort that mattered.

 
 
 
 

The tour lasted maybe five minutes. Simple enough. The barrels. The fermentation. The naturally forming yeast in the air. Deep breath. Afterwards was a tasting. Are these small enough take on the plane? It was all that mattered. Each of them bought two. One for sushi. One for cooking. 

 
 
 
travelJonathan Rowell