Good news, everyone: I’ve discovered I like sushi.
My first hint that I might enjoy a food I’d written off as pretentious, weird or just inaccessible for so many years came at Hawver’s wedding. He served raw tuna steak, which tasted delicious. This planted a seed in the back of my mind: the idea that raw fish could taste good (what the hell is this, Thomas Friedman’s op-ed column? fish growing from seeds? fix this before you publish).
Visiting Baltimore for Thanksgiving, my old pal Liz B. took me to XS on the outskirts of Baltimore. I ordered the chef’s Sushi Sampler, as it looked standard and unintimidating. It wasn’t until the platter arrived, stuffed with tuna rolls and sashimi, that I made my confession.
“I’ve never had sushi before,” I explained.
“I never got around to it. It’s one of those things I felt you had to try at a certain age or else it was too late to cultivate a taste for it. Like reading Catcher in the Rye.”
Liz was a perfect tutor, giving me just the right combination of coaching and tips to let me discover on my own. And it was all good! Tuna rolls: fantastic! California rolls: still good! Whitefish sashimi: loved it! Shrimp sashimi: incredible!
“Take a little bit of ginger,” she suggested. “Just a tiny sliver. Hold it in your mouth but don’t chew it yet. It’s very potent.”
Since then, I’ve hunted for more opportunities to find and eat sushi. When Misch and I grabbed lunch on Monday, I passed up my usual heaping mound of chicken teriyaki for a sushi platter. It came in a densely-packed plastic bento with a pair of chopsticks that splintered as I pulled them apart. And the soy sauce was a little too tangy for my liking. But I ate everything on the plate and loved it.
I would even have grabbed a sushi takeout dinner from a deli on Mass Ave on Tuesday night, but they didn’t look very tightly sealed.
Why do I like sushi so much? Yes, yes, it’s healthy, fish tastes good, new and exotic taste expanding my consciousness, etc. But what I really love about sushi is the texture. A well-formed tuna roll blends al dente, firm and chewy textures into a single morsel. It yields to the teeth and then dissolves into sticky bits of rice with a meaty center. My mouth has no idea what’s going on.
The guys at The Second Glass said that a good glass of wine should appeal to all the senses: taste, sure, but smell, vision and even the fluidity of its feel. I think sushi appeals to me in the same way. There’s the perfect tessellation of tiny rolls in a bento box, with everything arranged just so. There’s the wide variety of tastes. There’s the mixture of sensations. The meal does more than fill me; it engages me.
So: I like sushi. If only I lived in a country where it were readily available.