“What are you having for dinner tonight?” My mom asks, since dinner, the weather and work are the three topics of conversation we limit ourselves to in our thrice weekly conversations.
“I don’t know.” I say. “Sushi maybe?”
“Raw fish?” The disgust in her voice is palpable.
“It’s not all raw fish.” I tell her. “But I’ll probably eat some raw tuna.”
“Sounds…interesting.” She says, which is probably the most neutral thing I’ve ever heard her say.
At this point she is no longer surprised by my culinary adventurousness. But it is a far cry from the person I was when I lived with her. As a child my cardinal rule of eating was that I wouldn’t touch anything that was: a.) green, b.) lived in water, or c.) looked like a monster. Sushi can be comprised of all of these elements, so it’s just a testament to how much my palette has changed as an adult.
The first time I had sushi, I was 19 and had never been out of the state of Texas. Going to the sushi place was the most sophisticated thing I’d ever done until that point. Prior to this experience, the most exotic thing I’d eaten was Hamburger Helper lasagna. But I was in college and determined to put the farm boy behind me, and become the cultured, worldly young man I’d always hoped to be.
To that end, I found myself in a Japanese restaurant in College Station, Texas, completely intimidated. I didn’t know what to order, so I opted for the safest choice on the menu. California rolls. When they arrived, sliced neatly on my plate with some pickled ginger and wasabi, I was relieved. Sure, it looked weird. But it didn’t look too scary.
I’ve never liked anything that tasted fishy, so the first thing I did was drown the sushi in soy sauce. Having never encountered wasabi before, I assumed from the color and texture that it was somewhere in the guacamole family. So I took my California roll and slathered it with a heaping pile of wasabi. I took one bite, and felt this painfully spicy jolt shoot up through my nose into my eyes. It was years before I touched sushi again.
In the intervening years I’d made tentative stabs at sushi again. Since I was a vegetarian for years, I was limited to vegetable or tofu rolls. This dabbling in the genre would have probably remained the extent of my commitment if it weren’t for Carlos. When he confided early on in our relationship that he found sushi to be an aphrodisiac, I decided it was time for me to step things up a bit.
For lunch we go to a sushi-go-round called Sushi Land, like Candyland’s skinny, grown up cousin. There’s something thrilling about watching your food circle around you on a conveyor belt, and picking things out to give them a try. I started out simply with spicy tuna rolls, and avocado rolls. But before I knew it, I found myself branching out into seared salmon and raw tuna.
I finally feel like I’m ready to try Carlos’s favorite, sashimi. As a kid I was only interested in food that tasted good. Now when I eat things like pizza, burgers or milkshakes, I feel miserable later. But when I eat sushi, I feel awesome later. So, from now on, the grown up me wants to eat things that make me feel good afterward. Not guilty, or bloated. Even if they’re green, swim, or look like monsters. Plus the aphrodisiac aspect doesn’t hurt.