Sushi, if it is of the highest quality and fresh it should be amazing, a treat for the eyes and mouth, delicious, colorful, it offers a great variety of fish so it’s versatile and yet…I just don’t get it. I agreed to go with my friend for sushi and she swears I should like it based on the fact that it’s relatively healthy, fresh, delicious and besides that, I never go out for sushi with her or our mutual friends. Rather than eat sushi I prefer to stay home and rearange my pesky sock drawer. I only agreed to go for sushi with her because I had tricked her into liking both duck and lamb which are two of my favorites, while she insisted she hated both. I did it on the premise that if it was of good quality and prepared well she should or would like them both. Let me explain, so you can see how I eneded up on a perfectly good Sunday afternoon…eating sushi..
Without her knowing, I devised a devious plan to show her how good lamb and duck could be. I invited her to a good restaurant I knew, and convinced her I should order for both of us… The waiter arrived, and pointing to the menu ordered an appetizer and the mains. I told her that I had ordered her venison (which she likes but what I actually ordered her was lamb). I would be having beef, (really duck) which I ordered medium rare. I had only planned to trick her into eating one of the two meats, and had ordered the duck because I like it, and felt that if she didn’t like the lamb maybe I could goad her into eating some duck. She was away when the meals arrived and I saw this as an opportunity… this gave me time to devour the crispy and oh so delicious skin from the duck then topped it with some of the wine reduction I had ordered on the side.
She returned and began happily eating her food oblivious to the fact that it was actually lamb. I cut a piece from my duck and offered it to her and she ate that with a smile and an “mmmmm….so tender”…AH HA! After dinner and with a smile on my face I filled her in on my deceitful behavior. She was floored at first with disbelief, and with a smack on the arm and a grimace quickly fading to a smile said, “payback is a bitch!” In my new found stupidity I made the comment “I told you if it was good quality and prepared well, you’d like it!” I continued my celebratory drink with a side of smug until a devilish smile came across her face…using the same logic I had used she said, “so if you had really good quality sushi prepared well you should like it too!” Dammit! Live by the sword….
The fact is I’ve never disliked sushi. I’m even quite positive I’ve had good sushi, which is to say fresh and doesn’t smell like a chum bucket, or a bag of ass. Let me take you back to the ancient times of Pav, say…when I was five or sixish. “If you want to, you can put cocktail sauce on it…most kids don’t care for these without sauce.” Those were the words of a family friend who had just come from the Seabrook, NH where you could dig for clams on the sandy Atlantic coast. (This was back before the nuclear plant and three legged, one eyed, 5 pound and glowing cherrystone clams were the norm…I’m kidding, they’re not really 5 pounds now) They had big coolers filled with cherrystone clams, mahogany clams, steamers and oysters. He held one out, a freshly shucked cherrystone clam only smelling clean and slightly of the sea…I saw all the other kids eating theirs with cocktail sauce… I took this as sort of a dare.
Whenever someone has said such things to me as “well, you’ll need a lot of sugar in that espresso if you’ve never had it before.” Or “Mako shark?! You’ve never had Mako shark…I can’t believe you’re gonna like it.” I would be quite the contrarian in these situations and would rather eat a turd sandwich and smile, than give someone the satisfaction of taking their advice on how to eat anything. I guess deep down I’ve always been a nonconformist of sorts, so when presented thusly with a challenge… I’d rather go my own way and buck the trend.
I’ve done this with Moxie (which I enjoy the taste of to this day) and I’ve done this with a 1990 Pontiac Grand Prix and my friend John thought he’d be funny telling me In a sarcastic manner “I’ll bet you can’t go faster around this corner”…I proved him wrong at the expense of about 20 small saplings and a totaled 1990 Pontiac Grand Prix. I’d do that again just for the price of seeing the look on his face. Luckily, nobody was the worse for wear and there are plenty of trees growing where the saplings once stood, so relax arborday.org.
So turning back to the family friend holding out the cherry stone, I smiled and without a nod towards the “sauce” slurped it back… I don’t know what I was expecting, but the taste was chewy, slightly salty, fresh and pleasant although it translated a bit towards slimy but not enough to trip the gag reflex. I think the slight tilt towards slimy must have showed on my face and he chuckled a bit followed by “It’s the number one most slimy thing, but only the second best thing you’ll ever put in your mouth son…” What the heck was he talking about… regardless, from that moment I was on my way to raw seafood Nirvana. I had dozens of cherry stone clams and freshly shucked oysters still wet with ocean water from that morning…I tried “the sauce” but preferred them au natural.
As I said before, I never had ethnic food until I was in my late teens…and where I am from the only people I knew silly enough to eat raw fish were the crazy Finnish people I grew up with. They were always bringing raw or pickled fish to school in glass jars as snacks and eaten with pickled onion or on crackers. The thought of actually going to a restaurant for such food would surely be foolhardy. So I’d have to say the first time I ever had sushi I was at a training seminar I had gone to for work in Houston, Texas where the evening meal was preceded by sushi appetizers. They explained we would have Nigiri, Gunkan, Norimaki and Temaki styles of sushi…not sure what all these “styles” of sushi were, but I’d seen people on TV eat it so it must not be lethal…and therefore…edible!
Everyone was excited about sushi except for the five foot four inch Texan I called Donnie “Brasco” whom I was sitting next to…”We have this over in Galveston where I’m from…we call it bait!”I didn’t share in his discontent as I was truly excited. I was now 27 had never had sushi, and the food had been excellent all week so I was expecting this would be no different… I couldn’t wait. I had heard so much about the wonders of sushi, and suddenly there it was. Sushi chefs cranking the rolls out as fast as their hands could work. I went up with a friend who was a sushi eater from way back and deemed this to be some of the best he ever had.
I sat down and looked at the few pieces I had gotten…Toro, Snapper, Octopus, salmon with some kind of green thing wrapped around it, a little green cup thingy filled with some yellowish pink stuff and one filled with something resembling little pearls more orange in color…”You may want to try putting some soy sauce in this bowl for dipping…and the green stuff is wasabi, you can put that on the different sushi as well…” Ah, a dare! True to form I tried several pieces of sushi without any of the suggested additives to judge for myself what was good… to my surprise, it was all good….really good in fact, but it seemed to be missing something.
Not familiar with the “green stuff” I took a healthy dollop and added it and stuffed it in my face not knowing it was strong like freshly made horseradish…This was an immediate flashback to when I was a kid as my grandfather used to make his own horseradish, and loved when us grandkids would take a whiff. After doing so our eyes would water, our faces would purse up, and gramp would chuckle…I suppose in the same way parents get a chuckle giving their children pickles or lemon for the first time.
Either way, I still enjoy horseradish to this day…but not in the amount I had put on my sushi. My eyes watered and I could feel the vapors escaping my nose with a sting. This was not the flavor I was looking for…at least not that much. I tried dipping in the soy and it was fine…. But just tasted like soy and masked the mild fish. Anyway, I got done playing with and eating the sushi for now as it was nearly time for the “real” meal. Well right after we get our pictures taken atop a very pissy looking Longhorn Steer…this should be interesting.
I have had sushi many times since both as an appetizer, and as an entire meal. I have never had “bad” sushi, as eating raw fish is something I take pretty seriously. Well seriously enough that bargain sushi has always seemed a bit dubious to me. I’d rather spend a few bucks extra for a place with a good reputation for sushi instead of a few dozen hours sweating, delirious and in a conundrum as to which end of my body I should be pointing at a toilet. I have always known that really good, really fresh fish was to have a very mild flavor with almost zero smell. To me this translates to a somewhat flavorless sushi unless you are getting a stronger flavored fish like bluefish or mackerel. Dipping in soy to me results in soy flavored rice, and adding wasabi or pickled ginger only adds their flavors to something that is somewhat devoid of flavor to begin with.
At the suggested sushi place at the appointed time (High noon) I began ordering a variety of sushi I’m sure would encompass a wide variety of flavors and textures. The plates came loaded with sushi and I filled the obligatory bowl with soy sauce and waited…my friend sat happy as a pig in…well whatever it is pigs are happy in…I know this pig (me) would be happy in a Bugatti Veyron…but that’s a horse of another color. I ate a piece or two of everything…every style, every variety, every dipping, no dipping, dunking and topping variation I could come up with but there was only one thing that came to my mind the whole time I ate…
I finished my sushi extravaganza and put down my chopsticks…I could see my friend was anxious for the verdict. “Well…” she asked? It was fine I replied… “Just fine” She responded!? It was good, fine, nice, excellent, super, yummo… it’s just that…I dunno…I can’t believe I’m gonna say this…palate fatigue. To that I got the eye rolling and a wrinkled nose…”is this one of those made up culinary terms?!” I said no, well yes…I mean… it actually exists but I never really felt it myself until now. The sushi tastes really good… but as an entire meal it just tastes of the same texture and roughly the same flavors bite after bite after bite. “So does this mean you won’t go for sushi anymore?” Of course I will I assured her…You can come too, but I’ll be the one eating miso soup, yakitori and gyoza…and maybe a piece or two of octopus Nigiri…
So like I said it’s not that I don’t like sushi, I just don’t know sushi. No, I didn’t have California rolls, and no I didn’t have anything with cream cheese in it for all you naysayers out there. (Although I have before at one of “the best” sushi restaurants in Knoxville, TN…a proverbial hotbed of great sushi restaurants) This was legitimate sushi from a legitimate sushi place where the guy preparing it wasn’t named Kip or Ned. I can eat it fine, and it tastes fine… I just don’t want it for an entire meal. I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t know all there is to know about sushi, and would be open to going for sushi with my Asian friends given the opportunity…as long as they’re open to me being an idiot, who is out of his depth with regards to Asian cuisine…and aren’t afraid to pass the sake!
|OCTOPUS WAS MY FAVORITE
|ONE OF TWO DIFFERENT PLATES OF SUSHI WE ORDERED