Thursday, January 13, 2011

On sushi

The first thing people ask me whenever I mention that I have been/am going to Japan is whether I speak Japanese. To this I answer truthfully that no, I don't, even if I once could understand a bit (and hope to do so again with more time spent there). The second question that nine out of ten people ask (or so my unofficial research indicates), is whether I am very fond of sushi.

The answer to that question is also no, sadly.

The first time I ate sushi was in the Japanese embassy in Norway, and while every other part of the meal was delicious (it was a buffet with several Japanese specialties), the raw fish with seasoned rice didn't strike my fancy. I ate it, of course, politely pretending it was oishi (ironically, one of the few Japanese words I remember is the one expressing delight over yummy food). But I didn't intend to ever eat it again.

Two visits to Japan later, I know that this was a silly intention. You cannot escape sushi entirely if you have a connection to Japan, even if Japanese food culture is a lot richer than many Westerners seem to think (as suggested by my "research" above, many people assume that in Japan people eat sushi all the time, while my experience indicates that this isn't actually the case). Because this particular dish is such a big part of what we think of when we think about Japan, however, sushi tends to come up as a topic and as a dining alternative surprisingly often. I've dodged many sushi invites by admitting that it's not exactly my favourite, but then again, I really hate being picky. Generally I eat, and like, most of what I'm served, so it feels frustrating and stupid to not like a dish so often served in connection with a country I've come to form quite close ties with.

Thus I have a plan for the upcoming stay. I want to learn to like sushi. I don't just mean tolerate it - I already do that. As long as I avoid the squid and go easy on the soy sauce, I will eat everything. But I don't enjoy it.

At least it looks oishi... 
I want to enjoy it. Sushi is very chic. It's healthy, and yet a common take-away. If I feel like eating out, the atmosphere in many sushi places appeals to me. I love eating with chopsticks. Besides, I have a somewhat romanticized idea of how wonderful it'd be to sit in a sushi bar somewhere, elegantly balancing the small bites, chatting about art or music or fashion.

If I can't learn to like sushi in Japan, I probably can't learn to like it. I have six months to try. Hopefully this time next year, I'll be able to answer "some" to the first question people ask me when I say I've lived in Japan, and "absolutely" to the second...



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By the way, with the packing and the jitters keeping me occupied there is probably no reason to expect any new posts from me before I arrive safely (hopefully) in Tokyo. Which is sooner than I'd like to think about (and yet not soon enough. Funny that).

20 comments:

Jennifer Hillier said...

Sushi was definitely an acquired taste for me. It took me a long time to get past the fact that it wasn't cooked, and that it was once alive.

Six months in Japan! Lucky you!

Cold As Heaven said...

I'm not a big fan of sushi, but have kind of learnt to like it. The way I approached it was to take sushi for starters, and something cooked for main dish. Then I didn't leave hungry even though I wasn't able to eat a lot of the raw fish >:)

Cold As Heaven

Liz Pezzuto said...

For some reason sushi always got a bad rap growing up. I didn't try it until I was in college (simply because you had to go into Boston to get it, now it's everywhere). I loved it from my first bite! It's one of my favorite foods now.

If you have time, go down to Tsukiji Market and find Daiwa. You'll know it because it has a line of people out the door (I can send you a picture of the sign if you'd like). It's the freshest sushi you'll ever have - I promise it's awesome. For extra fun, go at 6AM.

Have a safe trip and good luck over there!

M.J. Nicholls said...

I'm sure you'll discover a platter of magnificacious seafoods while Japanning. Keep us informed and give us the recipes.

Deb and Barbara said...

When I was young, I hated fish, but when I turned 13 my mother (who had a very good Japanese friend who taught her the ropes) made us a platter of sushi. I LOVED it. It was the first fish I could tolerate. It was fresh, light, luscious textured.

Anyway, I know that doesn't help you (taste is taste), but had to share. Good luck!
B
The Middle Ages

Angela Felsted said...

I love sushi, but I've never been to Japan. How awesome that you get to go!

Holly Ruggiero said...

I like sushi, but not all sushi. I had to try a large variety to find the pieces I like. Hopefully that will work for you too.

LTM said...

ooo... real, authentic Japanese sushi! me so jealous... :D

Start w/the California roll. LOL! Can you get California roll in Japan?

It's really really good. The Tuna and the Salmon are good gateway drugs. They don't taste fishy at all~ ;p <3

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I lived in Japan for a few years when I was a kid, but I don't remember much of the language now. Hope you pick up a lot when you are there.
And I'm not crazy about sushi either.

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm half Japanese and I don't like sushi.
CD

The Golden Eagle said...

I've never eaten sushi.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I know of quite a few people who like sushi but personally it's not for me. I like plain English cooking boring to some maybe but it suits me.

Enjoyed your post.

Yvonne.

Hart Johnson said...

I really like sushi, but confess I like it a lot MORE because I ADORE wassabi... now wassabi is something I'm sure you know to go lightly on, but the heat of it with the fish and rice is really appealing to me. There are also REALLY different fish flavors--I really like Ahi and salmon a lot--definitely prefer a firmer fish. And whatever you do NEVER eat sea urchin.

(and a healthy dose of saki helps with an experimental nature, but make sure and get up on occasion because otherwise it will have gone to your head.)

sue said...

I don't like fish. But I like sushi (carefully chosen). Strangely I also like salmon cooked by a Swedish friend. She magically makes it edible and less odoury, She seems to put it in everything, even potatoes, and I don't gag. That's talented cooking!

Rice is a always a good filler when the going gets tough.

Jan Morrison said...

I like sushi well enough. But I LOVE udon noodle soup - all Japanese soups - all of them - I would go from soup place to soup place were I in Japan. Least that's what I think now.

Kelly said...

I'm not a fan of seafood period, much less raw. I limit myself to salmon or tuna from a can or, on the rare occasion, fried catfish. I do like to catch fish, though!
:)

RosieC said...

Hmm. I can't say that I love sushi, because I don't (and frequently can't, depending on the type) eat fish. I do however really enjoy the rolls with veggies inside, especially when there's so much wasabi that you can't actually taste anything and you think the inside of your nose is on fire. Yes, that I love :)

Safe travels and good luck getting settled in. I've never been to Japan and would LOVE to visit, but in the meantime I'll enjoy your observations and photos.

Danette said...

I love sushi as long-- as it doesn't have fish in it! Best wishes on your move!

I have an award for you on my blog!

Pat Tillett said...

We eat sushi more often than most folks in Japan. You are right about that. I love it and will eat it when ever possible. I'm so happy that you are going. What part of Tokyo will you be staying in?

Sadao said...

I'm a soy sauce junkie, so naturally, I love sushi.

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