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 . . .


Anonymous said...

I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE uni. Even though my husband says it tastes like the dishwashing sponge after you're done with the dishes. More for me.

If you hate black licorice, you've got to try SALTED black licorice. Double Zalt, I think it's Dutch. It was so horrible I started jerking my head back, trying to get away from it while it was still in my mouth.

Anonymous said...

I love brussel sprouts, liver and onions, stinky cheese! Sounds like a dinner party to me!