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here baby, there mama, everywhere daddy daddy

Recipe: miso-glazed salmon

It was time. I had announced to Jeremy at the end of last summer that I would cut my hair after the ski resorts closed this season. I’m not especially attached to my hair. Whatever length or style it is, it always winds up being pinned or pulled back into a ponytail and/or braid so it doesn’t interfere with whatever I’m doing. But this was the first time I was cutting my hair since I lost it to chemotherapy back in 2008.

last week

For the past few decades, I’ve been in a pattern of growing my hair long for 3-4 years and cutting it very short to donate the ponytail. I was graced with great hair – my dad’s hair. He’s over 70 years old and has merely hints of a few greys in a sea of thick, black, healthy hair. I figured it was the right thing to do to donate that hair every few years so someone else could benefit. After my breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, I was sitting at the end of the table in my surgeon’s office, swinging my legs to release my nervous energy, asking what comes next. He mentioned surgery, chemo, radiation. He told me, “You will lose your nice long hair.”

No I won’t, I thought in defiance. I got it cut and dyed with blue highlights and donated the ponytail. It’s just hair. It’s easy to let it go. I did it all the time.

i’m donating 16-17 inches this time

Two weeks after my first chemo infusion, I was well enough to resume my telemark ski program. I was in the advanced class with some really wonderful women – a few of whom are dear friends to this day. We were chatting over lunch at the ski lodge, our helmets, gloves, goggles, and hats strewn about the tables. I was listening to Leyla when I reached up to my hair to tuck it behind my ears because I had forgotten it was short. But when I grabbed for the hair, it came out without any effort. I looked at my hand and there were maybe forty strands of hair resting on my fingers. My mouth opened, but no sound came out. My eyes met with the eyes of my friends as everyone fell silent. I knew this was coming, I just didn’t know when. “I guess I have an appointment with a hairdresser in Boulder this afternoon,” I smiled.

I pushed it from my mind until class was over and then I drove home, changed out of my ski clothes, and drove to a Cost Cutters in Boulder. There was no need to have anything fancy done. I just wanted my head shaved so I wouldn’t shed everywhere. Hair loss was going to be on my terms, not chemo’s terms. When the hairdresser asked me what I wanted done, I quietly explained to him that I wanted to have my head shaved because my hair was coming out, but that I needed him to be extra careful not to cut me because I was immunocompromised from chemo. He nodded and proceeded to gently shave my head, softly calling me “sweetheart” and saying, “There you go.” I had trouble looking up at the mirror, but I watched it disappear. And I was fine. I didn’t cry. I thanked him, gave him an enormous tip, settled up at the front and put a hat on as I stepped outside the shop into the cold air.

And then I sat in the car and all of the emotion I had held in check welled up out of my chest and into a stream of tears pouring down my cheeks. Everyone told me I was going to lose my hair and I was totally ready for it. Except I wasn’t. I didn’t know that it would sucker punch me the way it did. It wasn’t the hair. It was the feeling of losing control as if all of the rules of my body had changed. I was scared and I felt very much alone. Cancer is a jerk.

the new cut is called an inverted stacked bob

It would be nine months before peach fuzz began to materialize on my head and another couple of months before I observed, “Jeremy, I think my hair is coming back curly!” My once straight, thick, dense black hair was growing back finer, softer, thinner, a shade lighter, and curly. I thought it might return to normal after a few years, as some folks have reported of their experiences, but after I washed out all of the styling from my haircut on Friday it is still the post-chemo hair. What matters is that I have hair I can donate.

My braids and ponytails have been shipped to Locks of Love in the past (several times, in fact). I was going to do it again when my friend, Wendy – who was also donating her hair, looked into charitable organizations that accept hair donations. I know Locks of Love is the de facto hair donation place, but after reading up on their numbers and their wig recipients (primarily children with alopecia and not so much children with cancer), I’ve decided to send my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths (which is where Wendy’s hair went). Pantene Beautiful Lengths makes real hair wigs for women with cancer.

That felt good, to be able to donate again. I’m already starting on the next one.

short hair, just in time for summer

That’s probably the most I’ve ever talked about hair since eighth grade. For me, the thing I love most about short hair is how much less time I spend on it. Even though we’re slated to get another foot of snow Monday night (I know, right? could it BE any better?!?!?), these longer daylight hours have my mind fixated on all manner of outdoor fun this summer like hiking, mountain biking, trail running. That means I want to spend less time in the kitchen too. Wild caught salmon are showing up at my local Whole Foods, so you know that’s a good thing.

salmon, miso, mirin, rice vinegar, sesame seeds

mix the miso, mirin, and rice vinegar together

a nice paste

I dog-eared this recipe from my December 2012 issue of Fine Cooking magazine. They serve it over a green tea rice, but I just wanted the fish. I love miso and I am always looking for more miso recipes. This one is super simple and quick. The only problem I encountered the first time I made this miso-glazed salmon was that our broiler was broken. I wound up grilling the salmon which just didn’t turn out right. So yeah, definitely broil this.

slice the salmon into 4-ounce pieces

lay the salmon on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and broil for a few minutes

spread miso paste on semi-broiled salmon

The broiler was fixed by the second attempt. Don’t be alarmed if the miso sauce comes out a little charred. It does that. It’s supposed to. I’d just warn against too heavy a char because it creates a carbonized skin that isn’t so palatable (ask me how I know this). I suggest keeping a close watch on the fish once the miso sauce begins to bubble. This dish is literally minutes to prepare. The result is a tender, juicy salmon accompanied by the nutty, earthy, tangy miso sauce. That leaves you more time to do fun stuff.

dinner is on

Miso-Glazed Salmon
[print recipe]
from Fine Cooking issue #121 (December 2012)

4 5-oz. skin on fillets of salmon about 3/4 inch thick
1/4 cup white miso paste
2 tbsps mirin
1/2 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar
toasted sesame seeds

Set a rack 4-inches from the broiler in your oven and turn the broiler to high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Mix the miso, mirin, and rice vinegar together. Place the salmon, skin-side down on the foil and pat the salmon dry. Broil the salmon for 2 minutes, then remove from oven. Spoon the miso mixture over the salmon fillets and return the salmon to the broiler for another 2-3 minutes or until the top of the glaze begins to blacken. Remove from oven and serve. Serves 4.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

black cod with miso miso butter roast chicken maple miso tofu blackened salmon sandwich

62 nibbles at “here baby, there mama, everywhere daddy daddy”

  1. Allison Day says:

    Damn it Jen, you’re making me cry. This brings me back to when my little brother had leukemia (twice) and lost all his hair (he’s fine now, but had quite a collection of hats for a while). Love the haircut! Plus that salmon looks delicious. ^_^

  2. irenalana says:

    Few years ago two friends of mine got breast cancer and where operated, got chemo and lost hair. Back then I thought a lot of what would I do if something like that happened to me especially because I have some cists that i have to monitor but its benign for now. Your hair donating is great thing and I think that someone will be happy for having wig from such beautiful hair. I just would like to mention that I like better your short hair it makes you look younger

  3. Susanne says:

    Jen, your haircut is adorable!
    You have such a beautiful, open smile, which clearly mirrors your heart. I love your pictures and words – they always brighten my day…
    Thank you. :)

  4. Nina, Brittany says:

    Thank you for being what you are. I’m sure by donating to Pantene Beautiful Lengths you will make a beautiful difference to someone else’s life. And you look gorgeous with your new look ♥

  5. Kristin says:

    Wiped away the tears to check out the new hair cut, & it’s great! Love it short. And please keep the miso recipes coming, because I love it too!

  6. Amy says:

    Jen, you’re beautiful no matter what length your hair is – inside and out. :) I totally dig your short ‘do. And, I can totally relate to being sucker-punched by losing your hair to chemo. I remember thinking “I can deal with it, it’s only hair and it grows back,” but something about the blatant physical reminder of what your body is going through is hard to shoulder. It will be a bright spot in the life of whoever gets a wig made of your gorgeous locks!

    The salmon looks delicious too! I love miso with salmon – such a tasty combination.

  7. Jenny Hartin says:

    I love you, that’s all.

  8. Rachael @ Set the Table says:

    Your hair look fantastic! I love it! I’ve never had the patience to grow mine out and donate…kudos to you. That’s a good thing you did. xox

  9. Eva @ Eva Bakes says:

    Beautiful story, Jen. I love the new haircut.

  10. Rachael @ Set the Table says:

    *Looks* fantastic. :)

  11. johanna says:

    loving the new style, jen, and loving the fact that you donated… it must be hard to lose it, hard to grow it back and it’ll now make someone very happy!
    and i love miso salmon, too.

  12. Darcy says:

    What a lovely post – it made me cry on this Monday morning. I love your new short hair and admire your bravery and honesty.

  13. Rebecca says:

    OK, I love that you’re donating your hair, but purely on a vanity level, can we just agree that that haircut rocks balls? Love you!

  14. Melissa says:

    I adore you. ♥

  15. hungry dog says:

    You are beautiful, inside and out. Thank you for posting this. And seriously, I love the short cut, makes me want to cut mine!

  16. Sil says:

    Dear Jen, you are just awesome! :-)

  17. Lisa says:

    No one loves you more than your Mom. I love your new hair cut and it looks lovely every time you have made a donation for this good cause. I have to try this recipe b/c I love salmon and like to have different flavors very much.

  18. magpie says:

    i love this story. and your new cut is great.

  19. Trolleira says:

    You look so great with your new hairdo – I really love the donation part! And for that I envy you. My hair didn`t come back after two chemos like they had been before at all. Thinking of donation is out of question. I went through all your emotions you wrote about after my second chemo, when everybody including my oncologist told me I will not loose again my hair, but despite this I lost it a second time.

    Well, we survied worse, right? Hair is not so important anymore…

  20. Mia says:

    you are so beautiful, Jen–black hair, brown hair, blue hair, long hair, short hair, no hair–you are just a beautiful person inside and out. and you can cook. . . which ain’t too shabby either! xoxo!

  21. Caroline says:

    That haircut looks great on you! Well done! Strangely enough it takes me longer to style my hair when it’s short than when it’s long but then again I have two left hands :) So now it’s long again and I just mostly tie it which takes no time at all. My baby fine hair is really difficult to style when short which is a shame because I would love to get a cute haircut like yours!

  22. sallybr says:

    Cancer is a jerk. It says it all. I hate it. I hate to have so many friends battling it.

    But I am glad you won this battle, and will be donating your gorgeous hair four countless wigs in the future…

  23. sallybr says:

    FOR countless… FOR. NOT FOUR.

    geez, what’s with me today? sorry, no way to edit it.

  24. kendricks says:

    Is there a way to make the skin crispy while making the miso slightly burnt?
    I’m a fan of crispy fish skins. Especially with fatty cut of fish….. when the fat fries the skin in the oven.
    that’ll be awesome.
    Your dish looks simple and elegant. Definitely combining the umami flavor of the fish and miso.. clean flavors.
    Thanks for the awesome post.

  25. Y says:

    i LOVE your new hair cut! xx

  26. Butter says:

    Sweet girl, I love that your hair is going to go on and come to symbolize ass-kicking for another person. Forgive my hippie woo-woo streak, I know you’ve had to endure it in the past, but I like to think your hair – the hair that has seen amazing travels, eaten sweet meals, hiked to the top of mountains, skied the quiet snow, graced the head of a person that lives fiercely with bright fiery love – will infuse the life of this new person with your spirit.

    Here’s to the next head of hair! Love you, babe!

  27. Laurel says:

    My last hair donation was also given to Beautiful Lengths in honor of my aunt, who is a breast cancer survivor. Yes, its just hair, but that hair can make a difference! (great cut btw!)

  28. Dani H says:

    Wow!! Foxy lady! LOVE the new do. And the salmon looks divine!

  29. Lisa says:

    You brought tears to my eyes. Thank-you for sharing…

  30. Denise Dewire says:

    Love your new do! You are truly a wonderful woman! I have a good friend who is going through chemo/radiation. She had her head shaved as well. I’m going to share your wonderful, inspiring story with her.

    You just rock Jen!

  31. laura h says:

    Great stuff, all around. The new do looks fabulous and youthful.

  32. Maho says:

    Jenny, I feel so lucky to have stumbled upon your blog years ago!
    What you write is always an inspiration for me, whether it be nudging me to try a new recipe or to introspect. I’ll be thinking about today’s post all day.

  33. Helen says:

    You look great. I had to have my (waist-length) hair cut short at 14 so that i could spend a year in a body cast to mitigate a severe scoliosis – and it is a hell of a shock (not only because of the process it represents – our hair is hugely tied up with our body image as women). Forty years ago no-one donated hair, but what a fantastic idea; you’re a lovely woman with a terrific (and influential) blog – keep up the good work!

  34. judith q stewart says:

    Dearest Jenny, From the bottom of my heart thank you for donating your beautifyl trusses. I am a retired hairdresser, after 48 wonderful years of serving my clients & working with breast cancer patients . Donating my time with these women in the ‘looking good feeling better” program. Now retired i find myself missing all of my women emensely. Renectly I invented a product just for breast cancer women [oh and every female if they wanted]. this product has been in the UAS Patent office for several years now waiting final review and judgement. I have a partner, and we are so hoping to be able to license to a big company who can afford manufacturing , so it can be put to good use for women who need it. I remember the first hair donation and now look at how many women children, men it has given hope to. In my book you are a shining star on this Earth.
    Blessings, Judith

  35. GwenO says:

    You look maaahvelous…inside and out! I love your blog. It inspires me with each new post.

  36. Chef V says:

    Sat Nam! Love your new “Doo”!! My dear friend Nancy has had the same experinece with her hair post chemo, it’s softer and subtle and very curly. Yes, cancer is a jerk. Wahe Guru to you Jen for donating and bringing more smiles to someone, we need them these days, happy you are well now.

  37. Kimberly says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you for all that you do.

  38. farmerpam says:

    Powerful post. Yeah, cancer is a jerk, for sure.

  39. nyker says:

    thank you for sharing this. first time commenting here. I will NEVER, EVER complain about how much hair I have, how thick it is, and how I wish I could shave the whole thing off. the bob cut looks amazing on you.

  40. Melanie Evans says:

    I love your thoughts on the process of losing your hair. I went through much of the same process/emotions. I think the crying is just part of the process. I was glad it was in the winter for me because I could not have tolerated wearing (hot) hats in the summer. As it was I very soon started wearing ball caps and then going bare (& bald) headed at work. People are very kind and supportive and I didn’t feel odd or weird. Thanks for all you share here. I’m so glad we met even though it was cancer that brought us together. Your hair is beautiful and I LOVE the new cut!!! Enjoy the snow!!

  41. selina says:

    Jen, love this! We all know it’s not about the hair, it’s about where you’ve been and what you’ve been through (you are a rock star!). That being said, love your new short hair.

    I cut my hair after the wedding and donated it too. Quickest weight-loss ever, I think I lost 5 pounds in one salon visit. ;-)

  42. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    Can’t imagine losing your hair. But on the other hand, cutting it seems so liberating. You did a good thing, woman. Walk tall. (if you can with two cameras around your neck!)

  43. zingara says:

    i pray for your wellness, my dear…you add so much to our lives. i look forward to your little essays & your how-tos. blessings on you, jeremy & kaweah.

  44. Memoria says:

    Your new hair-do looks FANTASTIC!! Brava!

  45. Cherie says:

    thanks for sharing your story – your new cut looks wonderful – and I’m sure the wig that grows from your pony will make someone else feel wonderful
    Salmon looks delish!

  46. Ploy says:

    Your story is incredible, you have such a good heart and very talented. Well done ^^

  47. angelitacarmelita says:

    I love reading your blog for so very many reasons…. your entry today covers a lot of those reasons for me. Courage, bravery, humility, grace, generousity… I could keep going. As soon as I start seeing the wild salmon here on East Coast NOVA, I’ll try the recipe. LOVE your new hair cut! and thanks for the tip on Pantene’s initiative, I’ll pass it around.

  48. Bernadette @ Now Stir It Up says:

    I love to donate my hair every once and a while. Thank you for letting me know of another great organization to donate too. Maybe I will switch off. The haircut and salmon both look wonderful. I love anything miso!

  49. Irene from Rollinsville says:

    Moving post — I wish my hair were the sort that could grow long enough to donate. I’m glad you did — it will make a world of difference to someone. I like your new look, too! I actually think I saw you on the Boulder Mall on Sunday… seemed a bit “stalky” to go up and say something…

  50. alice says:

    What a lovely post. I think you look great with short hair! I’m also amazed that I’ve been reading your blog forever and never realized how long your hair was.

  51. Cindi says:

    Oh Jen – powerful story. Yup, tears and I’m so happy you’re doing so well! I love you in short hair – it’s sassy just like you. :) And a great recipe to boot . Thank you!

  52. Eileen @ Phoenix Helix says:

    This post brought tears to my eyes, in a good way. Thank you for sharing. One of my favorite quotes is this:
    “I believe absolutely that it is in sharing the most vulnerable aspects of our journeys that we support each other to find grace and strength and healing during equally challenging times.” – Baden Lashkov

  53. John says:

    Long hair, short hair, no hair—your beauty shines through. Don’t matter. Give your dog a hug for me.

  54. Louise says:

    love the new hair cut! it’s very flattering too

  55. Mollie says:

    Jen, i just love you to bits! xoxo

  56. jenyu says:

    Oh you guys! You are all so sweet and supportive and just plain wonderful. Thank you for your kind comments and words of encouragement. I really love you all – especially my friends (you know who you are!) and my dear mom <3! Group hug and fist bumps to my fellow cancer survivors (I have yet to find a better word - although I don't like "survivor")!!! xoxo

  57. Angela KL says:

    Thanks for your sharing – loved it and you are so inspiring & courageous. I visit occasionally to catch up – knowing you always have good stories, good photographs & stories to tell. Thanks Jen!

  58. Gisela says:


    I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now, my mom passed away from Cancer almost a year a go and let me tell you sometimes I would read your posts and I would tell my mother how you got better and would try to cheer her up with your stories, so, for that… Thank You


  59. jenyu says:

    Gisela – this made me so so sad :( I’m very sorry about your mother. Sending you a big hug, my dear. xo

  60. Shelly says:

    Hi Jen! I met you a few years ago when you delivered delicious cookies to the Lijit offices in Boulder. I saw your photos with Tara and was catching up on your blog :). Anyway, I’ve donated my hair 3 times and always to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. I’ve also read that LOL sells the wigs on a sliding scale, whereas Pantene gives them away. My hair is very long right now and I’m trying to decide whether to donate again, or save it before I start going gray. I know the “right” answer, as my sis-in-law is a breast cancer survivor, but I’m actually enjoying having long healthy hair. Your new cut is super cute and has me yearning for shorter hair for this gorgeous weather!

  61. Rachel says:

    Hi there,

    So is the salmon still a little raw when you take it out of the oven? The only time I’ve ever had salmon at home is when Mom pan fries it.


  62. jenyu says:

    Rachel – it depends on how long you broil it. Mine tend to be a little raw in the middle (I like that), but you can broil it longer before putting the miso paste on if you want it cooked through.

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