There is something to be said for being willing to try new food and new recipes. Sometimes when you experiment, things don't turn out quite like you planned...
Honestly, this part of my meal tonight turned looking so much like green play dough in orange sauce that I was almost embarrassed to throw the leftovers into a dish to bring to work tomorrow. Tasted better than it looks though!
Sometimes though, no matter how good or bad it looks, the taste is something you can't get past. I'm not sure if any of you heard this story yet, but back when Laurie and I were traveling around New Zealand, we spent a lot of time on a bus with an interesting bus driver named "Nads".
Like any good tour guide/bus driver, she was full of interesting information, some of it accurate, some of it wild stories from her imagination. Some stories we fell for, some we figured out pretty quickly. In one town where we stopped for lunch, she told us where to find the best fish and chips shops, and while doing so she made a recommendation. She started telling us about a sea urchin found in the ocean near New Zealand that sold for hundreds of dollars a pop. This urchin, called "Kina" by the locals, was supposedly an amazing delicacy and could be found in this small town for a fraction of it's usual cost because this was where it's usually harvested. So we went out, excited to try a new food. The shop we went to had none, so some of the other tourists went to the other shop, and we asked them to buy us some if they found it. Well, when we got back to the bus, the others had brought back a container of Kina. Now, I should have looked closer, because it actually said "Kina Roe"... So we opened it and found slimy bunches of caviar-like blobs floating in some kind of brine. The smell was... bad. But smell doesn't always mean it will taste bad... so we dug in and each tasted a gob of it at the same time. If Laurie waited two seconds to spit hers into the garbage, it's only because it took her that long to figure out where to spit. The taste was horrid, all I remember is salt and something I couldn't describe. I swallowed without chewing, just to get rid of it faster. Laurie is certain Nads sat there laughing at us throughout. I don't remember looking at Nads, I was too busy trying to wash the taste out of my mouth!
Fast forward a few years. I'm still not certain that sea urchin is a bad food, just that it's "roe" or eggs pickled taste horrid. Now, I'm going to go a little off topic, but bear with me, it's worth it!
I've only begun experimenting with food in the last few years, especially as far as the more interesting food goes. So I had never tried Sushi, or even wanted to try it until a couple of years ago when a good friend talked me into going out for sushi with her. Now, I had assumed all sushi was raw fish, but I've since learned it's much more complicated than that. My first taste of sushi was the safe kind, the rice with seaweed, vegetables and meat, dipped in soy sauce. I didn't get a chance to have any from then until this last month, when finally I found a good place to go and people willing to experiment with me. We went in and ordered whatever sounded good. And we were NOT disappointed. Each choice seemed to be better than the last. I went a second time to the same place, and it was still amazing. I starting trying to figure out how I could make my own sushi when I came back to Iqaluit. I was still in this "I love sushi" frame of mind as I stayed in Ottawa for a couple days before returning to Iqaluit. My first day in Ottawa, I spent most of the day in Rideau mall, where I found a sushi place in the food court and ordered two seperate meals there. Both passably good. The more I had, the more I wanted. So as I wandered further the next day, and came up on a fancy Japanese restaurant, I decided to return there for supper and treat myself. It was beautiful and quiet inside, with the three sushi chefs lined up at a counter making the food in full view of everyone.
The menu was full of possibilities, it was hard to choose. Being there without anyone to help me eat it made me a little more cautious about the quantities I was ordering. I chose a "sushi dinner" plate, and added on something that intrigued me from the a la carte menu. Something called "Uni" which is Japanese for sea urchin. Why not? I'd been thinking for a long time that if only I could taste the actual sea urchin it would taste so much better than it's eggs! The plate came and I realized something...
This sushi plate was the real deal. Every piece was raw fish/seafood! Oh well, I can try this, it appears to be a reputable restaurant! Looking at the plate, you'll see a group of six pieces of rolled sushi in the top left corner. Just to the right of that is a single piece of rolled sushi with a pasty-looking top. That's the Uni... raw. Being a little uncertain about the looks of the uni, I started with some of the other sushi. About halfway through my plate, I had bucked up my courage enough to grab the uni, top it with wasabi and ginger, and dip it in soy sauce. I took a sniff of it before I tried it. The scent was familiar. Very familiar. It brought me back to that afternoon in New Zealand right before I tried the Kina Roe. But I ignored it, thinking that of course they smell similar, they're from the same animal.
The problem with sushi, is that it's very messy if you try and bite through it. You have to eat each piece as one big mouthful if you want to have any chance of keeping things managable. So I shoved the whole thing in my mouth. And as the soft squishy mass of sea urchin began to mash itself into every crevice in my mouth, I realized something else...
this was the most horrid thing I have EVER put in my mouth. It felt like something crapped in my mouth. But the piece of sushi was so big, it took me at least 20 seconds to chew, swallow, chew, swallow, chew, swallow. As it was, I came very close to vomiting. I know even spitting it out wouldn't have made me feel any better about the taste in my mouth. I swallowed out of determination to get it down... plus the belief that it would just stick to the inside of my mouth made me want all that rice in the sushi to help wash it down!
I survived, ate a few more pieces of sushi before I had to stop and listen to my stomach which was telling me to stop already. As I left the restaurant I was uncertain if I'd ever be able to eat sushi again. I was also wondering how far I could walk before my stomach would force me to vomit as it so wanted to... I walked about a block and a half and wasn't feeling any better, before realizing I had left my backpack with my laptop in it in the restaurant. I ran back. I forgot about my stomach.
The backpack was still the the same spot, my stomach slowly forgave me, and I think I'll have sushi again, but I'll stick to the cooked meat and vegetables.