I remember the first time a Denver friend suggested we go out for sushi. Not wishing to appear unadventurous, I acquiesced – but had zero idea which of several disgusting uncooked options to order.
"Try the California Roll," she said. "Everybody likes that." So that's what I ordered. And was immediately turned off by the bitter seaweed it was rolled with. Yuk, I thought. How on earth can anybody eat this stuff?
It was instantly clear that requesting a fork would brand me as singularly lacking in sophistication, so I listened intently as my friend demonstrated and explained the proper use of chopsticks. When, eventually, I could pretty adroitly use this new utensil to pick up a single grain of cooked rice, I felt very worldly. Fast fact: "Sushi" is vinegared or seasoned rice – not fish.
Today, I do like maguro (raw tuna), and wasabi (Japanese green horseradish), and I'm especially fond of the blush-colored pickled ginger (which there never seems to be enough of). That's it, though. Nothing else. Mike, my son and I, once included a friend of his when we went out for sushi, and were highly amused when, thinking it was safe to order soup; he was presented with a dish that contained a raw egg. He would have been much happier with a cheeseburger.
Recent research indicates that sushi has health benefits. Besides being low in fat, cholesterol and calories, raw fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which lower the risk of blood clots and decrease triglyceride levels, meaning it's healthy for your heart and may even have benefits for Type II diabetics. CNN reports there's a new study that says people who ate just one serving of fish a week dramatically reduced their chances of cardiac arrest.
That seaweed I hate is rich in micronutrients – in other words, nutrients needed only in miniscule amounts, like iron, manganese and zinc. It also, like all plants, contains phytochemicals, which may help prevent everything from colds to cancer. One caveat: both seaweed and soy sauce can be high in salt. Not good for pregnant women or people with high blood pressure.
The flip side is that raw anything can harbor bacteria, and some fish is high in mercury.
Now here's a personal anecdote. Some years back when I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and had no idea how I'd been exposed; a paramedic friend asked whether I eat a lot of sushi. I said yes. By then, and for several years, my son and I had been going out for sushi at least once a week.
"That's probably it, then," he told me. He pointed out that if a sushi chef, while cutting slices of, say, maguro, nicks a finger tip, a drop of virus-contaminated blood can contaminate the uncooked fish.
Not too appetizing, is it? Even so, I'd by lying if I told you I gave up sushi. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is often used to keep such foods fresh. Some studies say MSG's addictive. Personally, I think it's the pickled ginger.
Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her columns at www.bloggernews.net. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.