Above the counter of the small kappo-style restaurant where I apprenticed hung a small scroll inscribed with a seasonal poem that was changed at the beginning of every month. In October, the simple verse read, "Aki no saba, Wakasa umare, Kyo sodachi. (The autumn mackerel, born in Wakasa, raised in Kyoto)." This short phrase was a reminder of the life of the food we prepare — its season, its origins, its destination.

Saba, the humble mackerel, can be used to make many dishes.

The mackerel is one of the most important, abundant and affordable fish in Japanese cuisine. Though available year-round, it tastes best in fall when the fat content of the fish increases. Salted and grilled or in preparations that contain no additional fat, mackerel is a delicious addition to many autumn meals.