Thursday, January 31, 2008
Uni and Me
Since there was no Project Runway this week (all together now, "Nooooooooooo!") I decided to hit the wayback machine and repost a blog from my Max and Mike on the Movies days. As true today as it was 2 years ago, when I first wrote it. . .
I am the very definition of the healthy eater. You can literally count on one hand the number of food items I won’t eat:
1. raisins-nature’s candy, my butt. It’s not a texture thing, or an aversion to dried fruit thing (I loved dried figs, for example). Frankly, raisins just taste gross.
2. radishes-stay for the crunch, leave for the flavor
3. raw broccoli-strange, because I love cooked broccoli; but the raw stuff just tastes like garnish to me [spirit of full disclosure: I just tried every imaginable spelling of broccoli under the sun for this sentence. My first tragic stab was “brocolli.” Thank goodness for spell check.]
4. black licorice/fennel/anise/anything that tastes like black licorice-Good ‘n Plenty’s make me want to hurl
5. Jell-o-Hated it as a child. Hated it as a teenager. I don’t see any reason to start eating the stuff now.
6. That’s it.
No, seriously. That’s all I won’t eat. The foods that most people find revolting, I love. Brussell sprouts? Bring ‘em on! Liver? I’ll take mine with onions, please. Stinky cheese? The stinkier the better! Escargot? Escar-yes! (sorry.)
But there is one food that I love that even skeeves me out a bit, and that’s saying a lot. I’m talking about uni. You guys know what uni is? It’s sea urchin and it’s a kind of sushi. Basically, it looks like brain on seaweed and rice. It’s slimy, it’s slightly porous, it’s doody-brown. As for the flavor? How can I describe it? Sort of metallic, sort of earthy, definitely bitter.
I once went into an oyster house where they had a sign on the wall that read: “It was a brave man who first tasted an oyster.” Multiply that a thousand times and you’ve got uni.
And yet, being a sushi fanatic, and being a bold eater, I had to try it for myself. I’d already tackled giant clam and live scallop. It was time to take the next step.
Here’s the thing: The first time I had uni, I hated it. The flavor was so horribly off. Sea urchins are bottom feeders of the ocean and that’s what it tasted like to me: A garbage disposal in fish form.
And yet . . . how can I explain this to you guys? I had to try it again. No, not out of some perverse foodie pride (“As God is my witness, I WILL conquer this uni!”) or anything like that. I just had this nagging feeling that if I kept trying it, I would like it. It seems counter-intuitive, I realize. You eat something, it tastes like foot, you call it a day. You don’t say to yourself, “Something tells me I’m going to learn to love this little urchin!”
But I did. The next time I went to my favorite local sushi joint, I ordered uni again. I still didn’t “like” it, per se. But I liked it more.
By the third time I tried it (of course there was a third time . . . this is a love story, after all), I was hooked. Something had changed in me on a basic, molecular level. What was practically rancid the first time I tried it, was now a little piece of slimy heaven. Today, I am truly crestfallen if my sushi chef has no uni.
The moral of the story? Well, there is no moral. This is an uni-specific phenomenon. If you try something and you hate it, you’d be insane to try it again. But then again . . .