Archive for May 4th, 2018

“You really have to try this.”

“No way. Absolutely not. You know I don’t eat fish.” I reply.

“Try it just once. You’ll love it. Just once and you will be hooked.”

I tried it. Then I tried it again. And yes, soon I was hooked on sushi.

I think my experience parallels that of many other Americans. In the early eighties, most people confronted with sushi had the same reaction “Raw fish …Ugh!” That perception changed steadily over the years and now there are sushi restaurants in even the smaller towns in N.J.

What is it that I like about sushi? It’s everything… the aesthetics, the textures, the variety, the taste and, something I find amazing when I think about it… it does not smell like raw fish.

When Shula and I go to a sushi restaurant, I like to get a table that allows me to watch the sushi chef work his magic. Such a pleasure to observe an expert at work and, believe me, these chefs are experts. I am entranced as he selects the prime cuts of fish or seafood, the sureness of his hands and his motions as he slices it , lays it and the other ingredients on a bed of rice on a sushi mat, then rolls the whole, firms it up and slices it into six rolls. Other times, he molds the rice into an oblong and carefully tops it with a thin slice of fish or clam or a piece of shrimp. Once he has prepared our order, the sushi are placed with a mound of pickled ginger and a little wasabi on a distinctive rectangular plate with upturned corners. It is brought to our table and we revel in the different shapes and colors.

I pour some soy sauce into the little rectangular saucer, mix in a little wasabi and I’m ready for my sushi experience. A delicious moment of indecision and anticipation… which one shall I try first? Finally I make my choice. I top it with some pickled ginger, dip it in the wasabi-soy sauce mixture and pop it into my mouth. Sheer bliss as I savor the taste and the texture, the coolness of the fish, the faintly vinegar tang and firmness of the rice. I try to make my mouthful last but, alas, all too soon, it is gone and I am reaching for another piece of sushi, a different one, and another and another. At the end of the meal, when every last piece has disappeared, we are content, sated but not stuffed.

I do not want to give the impression that I am a connoisseur of sushi. Far from it. A true  connoisseur would be horrified to see me in action. For instance, I use too much soy sauce. Instead of dabbing it on the fish, I dunk the bottom of the roll, the rice part, in the soy sauce. Positively barbaric! I will also eat only some types of sushi. I stay away from the stronger tasting types of fish such as mackerel though I am trying to expand my range. I once read a piece on the proper way to eat sushi. It was by Ruth Reichl, the one- time NYT food critic and editor of Gourmet magazine, and it was a revelation. I became painfully aware that my palate is not sufficiently refined to appreciate the finer nuances of sushi. And it never will be, either. I was happy however to find that the proper way to eat sushi is with the fingers. Great news for one who has never mastered the art of eating with chopsticks.

Sushi anyone?


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