“Discarding things is all the rage, but I don’t throw things away. I want to see them live out their lives,” says Tomi Matsuba, the 67-year-old designer for the Gungendo clothing brand.

The Iwami Ginzan lifestyle research institute that she runs is located amid farmland in the Omori district of Oda, Shimane Prefecture. The area is known as home to the former Iwami Ginzan silver mine.

The institute’s cafeteria is a traditional house with a thatched roof. Matsuba has renovated 10 such vacant traditional houses and turned them into an inn and a meeting place for people, among other things.

“We also give new lives to scrap wood by making tables and shelves out of it,” she says.

A dish that reflects her spirit of not throwing things away is crackers made of the bone of “aji,” or horse mackerel. When the fish is filleted, the bones remain. Instead of throwing them away, she deep-fries them to be enjoyed.

Her husband, Daikichi, 63, loves fish-bone crackers that are crisp and flavored to match a glass of beer.

“Just because he wants to eat the fish-bone crackers, he requests dishes using horse mackerel. I want to ask, ‘Which is the main dish?’” says Matsuba with a hearty laugh.

A key to making the crackers is to sprinkle salt and pepper on the bones, dust with flour and deep-fry slowly over low heat.

Now, let’s focus on a dish for in-season horse mackerel.

“Fish from the Sea of Japan are the pride of the town,” she says.

The tradition of “one-day fishing” remains in Oda. The fishermen set sail early in the morning, land the fish caught in the coastal waters within the same day and sell them at the “night market” held in the evening.

The fish, including flounder, rosy seabass and horse mackerel, don't come fresher than this. Such one-day fishing is quite popular at Wae fishing port and other places.

The marinade allows people to enjoy fresh horse mackerel and vegetables in generous amounts. Sometimes vegetables--potatoes, radish, coriander, soy beans and rice--grown in the institute's farmland are served to the entire staff.

“In the old days, everyone would say, 'heaven will punish you if you handle food without respect,' ” says Matsuba.

She wants to hand down what her parents taught her to the future generations, not naggingly, but nicely. That sums up Matsuba’s daily life.

INGREDIENTS

Serves four.

8 small horse mackerels

2 eggplants

1 bell pepper (“papurika” type)

4 green peppers (“piman” type)

8 snap peas

1/8 pumpkin

4 okras

4-8 cm “nagaimo” yam

Some “katakuriko” starch and frying oil

Marinade (75 cc each of light soy sauce and regular soy sauce, 100 cc sweet mirin sake, 30 grams each of sugar and “kezuribushi” bonito flakes)

METHOD

To make marinade, pour 800 cc of water in pot and add light and regular soy sauces, sweet mirin sake and sugar. Place pot over heat and bring to a boil. Add bonito flakes and lower heat. Remove from stove after about 10 minutes and strain through sieve.

Fillet horse mackerel. Cut eggplant into large random pieces. Remove seeds and calyx from bell pepper and cut vertically into eight equal pieces. Cut green pepper in the same way and cut into pieces that match those of bell pepper. Slice off calyx of okra, punch a few holes using bamboo skewer. Remove string from peas. Cut pumpkin into 1-cm-thick slices. Slice yam into 1-cm-thick rounds.

Heat oil to 170 degrees, and deep-fry all vegetables without batter. Dust horse mackerel with starch and fry. Using paper towel, pat dry thoroughly and add to marinade while still hot.

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From The Asahi Shimbun's Watashi no Ryori column