It’s raw fish, yes. Sometimes wrapped in rice. And seaweed. With little bits to drape on top of it and sauces to dip it into. And yes, I know it’s good for your waistline and packed with healthy oils, but that still doesn’t explain the Western world’s obsession with this particular cuisine.
It’s almost like a lifestyle statement: you don’t boast about how you ate a big packet of slap chips for supper but head out for sushi and you’ll be telling all and sundry about it, posting pics on your Facebook Wall and tweeting about how delicious it was. Maybe people think it makes them sound well-travelled or culinarily adventurous or a healthier version of themselves – or perhaps a perky mixture of all three? It’s a mystery to me.
Then there’s the eating implements. I didn’t grow up using chopsticks and I’m pretty sure my ancestors didn’t either. In fact, any ancestors of mine were more likely to be clutching dripping drumsticks with their hands than picking politely at dainty morsels with pointy wooden sticks. I am also a clutz. You can always tell when I’ve been behind a pair of chopsticks, because most of the time more food lands on the floor than goes in my mouth – I pity the poor waiters.
And don’t get me started on the kids – my social feed is littered with tales of two-year-olds popping out for a quick bite of sushi with their parents. When I was a kid we ate fish fingers. Our parents had never even heard of sushi and even if they had, the idea of paying R200 so their child could show off with some chopsticks and slurp down a plate of Maki would have sounded ludicrous to them (it goes without saying that I’m jealous of most two-year-olds’ hand/eye co-ordination with regard to chopsticks).
While I do agree that it’s good to encourage kids to try new things, this sushi obsession annoys me for some reason. When my kid grows up and makes her own money then she can squander it on little bits of very expensive raw fish – but for now something cheaper will do.
So why this unfounded hatred of something everyone else seems to love? Well, I’m allergic to some fish for starters and as I haven’t quite figured out which types yet, going for sushi becomes a bit like playing Russian Roulette with my mouth. Will Belinda break out in hives and have trouble breathing this time or will she not? Plus, I don’t always trust restaurants. Is the fish I’m putting in my mouth the name they’ve given it on the menu? Not always (I’m willing to bet). But ultimately I’m probably just a big old nerd who prefers her food cooked. The plump fleshiness texture is too much for me and the probability that I may end up in Sandton Medi-Clinic just adds to the gag reflex.
Unsophisticated – me? Yes, very. My roots are not fishy ones either, I grew up far away from the sea and perhaps I’m just not designed to gobble up raw bits of little Nemo and pickled ginger. I’ll stick with a juicy steak thank you. Just pass me a big old knife before you go though, I think I’ll need it to defend myself from the rest of you sushi-lovers out there.