Saturday, September 24, 2005

I ate raw fish...

I really did... on Thursday night, at a little japanese restaurant nearby with Cristina and my brother-in-law Celinho. And although it wasn't my first time, it was the first time that I went beyond the "Hot Philadelphia" ( a "makimono" which is mostly rice and cream cheese, and doesn't really look like fish at all), and tried some different sushi and even sashimi... slimy-feeling strips of raw salmon and tuna.

I know this isn't a big deal for many people, but for me it was a significant event: it means that, after nearly 15 years of stalwart resistance to the tremendous social pressure that has accompanied the explosion of japanese restaurants and sushi bars here in Brazil (and the US also, from what I can tell), I finally caved in. To be sure, it was a gradual collapse of will; I've been accompanying others to japanese restaurants for years, but in general I always stuck with the yakisoba, or maybe the fried shrimp. After awhile, I started risking the hashi (chopsticks), instead of demanding a fork and knife like any civilized westerner should do. Then there was the saki (rice wine), which isn't too bad... (but I don't know what the deal is with the square cups. It seems like the japanese go out of their way to make everything difficult!).

Raw fish, though, was a big step for me. For most of my life, I had always prided myself on being pretty open minded about food; back in my home state of Kansas, I had been willing to at least try about anything you can grow or kill, cook, and put on a plate. Frog legs ... snapping turtle ... I even ate rattlesnake once (it all tastes like chicken anyway!). But raw fish??? The idea of eating any dead animal completely raw runs against some deeply ingrained tabu that I apparently hold. It rated down there with live bugs and human flesh on the list of stuff that I normally wouldn't even consider putting in my mouth ... unless maybe I were stranded in a lifeboat, in the middle of the sea, and a fish happened to jump into my boat. I'm sure after a couple of days without food, I would tear into the fish with abandon-- bones, scales, and all-- and I would probably love every savory bite of it!

As an anthropologist, it has always been pretty clear that learning to cook our food was one of the essential leaps (along with tool use) that helped distinguish homo sapiens from the other carnivores!

And yet, it seems that at least two out of every three people I know down here absolutely love sushi. Initially, I kind of figured it was just a passing fad ... or at least hoped that it would be a short-lived cultural trend. In reality, I reasoned, it must be that what people really like about it was the thrill of breaking that tabu; of eating something that a human being ought not eat. But then, it seemed to have caught wind with the "health food" craze (I guess the slight risk of salmonella isn't considered as being "unhealthy") and has done nothing but grow in popularity.

So now I have to admit; if sushi is a fad, it shows no signs of abating. In fact, what finally led to my gradual breakdown is the fact that here on the island on which I live (Ilha do Governador), one of the few decent restaurants (non-pizzarias), is a japanese restaurant. As Cristina and I have begun to retake our "life beyond kids", we have been trying to go out together every Thursday (so far it's averaged every other Thursday, but it's a start). However, since our babysitter can only stay until about 9:00 pm, leaving Ilha in search of more interesting restaurants makes our dinner rushed, and we run the risk of getting stuck in traffic.

So that's where I am now. Having tried it, I can honestly say that it's not that bad. But, I'm pretty sure that I will continue to steer clear from the sashimi, and I still have no intention of trying the octopus and squid. But I've said that before, so let's see what happens next week!



Today is James 10th birthday! In a few hours, we'll have about half-a-dozen friends from school over for an afternoon of videogames and sword fights. It's time for me to get to work, as I still have a pool to clean and preparations to make!


Our hearts go out to those who are in Rita's path, or who have loved-ones there. Our best wishes to all of you!


At September 24, 2005 3:16 PM, Lori Enochs said...

Happy Birthday James, we all are thinking of you and wishing you the best birthday and year ever. Cameron and Nicholas talk of all of you often and can't wait to see you again. We love you and miss you all.

At September 24, 2005 10:54 PM, Jim said...

Thanks Lori! We appreciate it, and nice to hear from you! Both James and Christian have very fond memories of our time with you, and also look forward to seeing you all.

Send our love to Cameron and Nicholas!

Love, Jim, Cristina, James & Christian (& Kevin too!)

At September 25, 2005 1:05 AM, Anonymous said...

Uma falha imperdoável.
Ao levantarmos pela manhã cedo, Cléa e eu, já pensávamos em telefonar para dar os parabens ao neto querido, mas saimos apressados para uma viagem até Syracuse a fim de conhecer e visitar a avó do Mark. Fomos convencidos de que seria melhor telefonar quando chegássemos de volta o que, no entanto, só aconteceu depois das 23,00 hs do Brasil quando o James já estava dormindo. Nossas desculpas ao Jim e Cristina; certamente falaremos com ele amanhã, se Deus quiser.

At September 26, 2005 3:21 AM, Mark said...

Great post on sushi. I've never even tried it, and do not plan on it. I'm open-minded about food, but not when it comes to even the slightest risk of uncooked food making me sick. Yuck, man. Not worth it to me when there are so many other good things in the world to eat, and a far sight cheaper than sushi, I might add!

Have you checked out the Simon of Space schwag yet? See it at:

Happy 10th to James.


At September 26, 2005 5:46 PM, Anonymous said...

Please pass along a belated "Happy Birthday" from our side of the family as well. Hope it was a great one for James!!


At September 27, 2005 12:09 AM, Jim said...

Thank you, Greg, Mark and Dr. Celio!


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