Much to the chagrin of my family (my mother’s side is Greek and my father’s is British, so fish was a common staple for both parents), I always had trouble stomaching fish.
Even the smell of it cooking was enough to turn my stomach. And it wasn’t for a lack of attempts, either. I gave seafood a chance on more than one occasion, and while I did manage to take to some of it (mostly lobster and shrimp), fish was something completely different.
That was before I first tried sushi. While living in Chicago, some friends had wanted to go to a sushi restaurant, and I decided to give it a try. At first, I stuck with the ebi variants, since shrimp was one of the things I knew I could stomach. But I decided to get adventurous and try some maguro (tuna). To my surprise, I found I actually enjoyed it. Quite a bit, in fact.
I told myself it has to be the result of everything else. It must be all the other ingredients included in the roll, combined with the mixture of ginger, soy sauce, and wasabi. These things must have completely distracted me from the otherwise-terrible taste of fish.
That notion was challenged when I first arrived in Japan. At my kangeikai (welcome party), they served mostly sushi, and I happily dug in. Amidst the amazed pronouncements of my chopstick proficiency and both them struggling with their limited English and my struggling with my far more limited (at least at that point) Japanese, something else was brought out, which they told me was called sashimi. This I recognized plainly as slices of raw fish.
My new boss encouraged me to dig in, making particular note of a local specialty that I had to try. This was my first night in a new town with my new co-workers and they were recommending a food that the town was famous for. So I didn’t want to accidentally offend anyone. I took a piece and ate it, trying to brace myself for the terrible taste I knew was coming.
It never came. Turns out that sashimi was just as tasty as sushi. I thought maybe my tastes had changed. After all, outside of sushi, I hadn’t attempted to eat fish at any other point in years. So maybe it was nothing more than a childhood aversion that I’d long since grown past.
Not long after, I had the opportunity to test this theory when I was presented with a school lunch that included a small piece of cooked fish. I happily picked it up, took a bite out of it…and nearly felt like throwing up. Ever since that day, I’ve had to explain to people that I only eat raw fish. Most I’ve encountered are extremely surprised that it’s only cooked fish I can’t stomach, whereas I’ll leave behind a stack of plates at a kaiten-zushi restaurant.
Where do you weigh in? Do you prefer your fish raw, cooked, or does anything go?
Photo by skampy via Flickr Creative Commons