The first time I tried sushi I hated it. It felt like I had swallowed the ocean, and not just the weed that grows in it. My stomach lurched as though it was surfing the waves that flooded it.
I only did it because I was trying to impress a guy. I’m sure my stuffing an entire rice roll into my mouth, with soy sauce dripping down my chin, along with the seasickness, really sealed the deal. He did not call again.
I don’t pretend to know the difference between different variants of sushi. There are cones, rolls and balls with varying contents. It doesn’t seem all that appealing: raw sea creatures, raw vegetables, and a healthy dose of mayonnaise combined with vinegar rice and seaweed.
Some friends insisted I give it a second try. They suggested it might be the restaurant, or the guy, or the nerves associated with a first date. I was pretty sure it was the texture, flavour and smell of the raw fish. My friends said it takes exactly three times eating sushi before you really enjoy it. I was hesitant, but curious about their theory.
I ordered the same thing: a yam tempura roll and a cucumber roll. I wanted to play it safe. I don’t trust anyone to handle raw fish in a food safe way, especially not a guy who sports a thin little moustache and a funny little paper hat. I wasn’t a vegetarian at the time, but I just didn’t trust fish that was uncooked. I ate the rolls and within minutes, needed to excuse myself. I went home, slipped into something more comfortable, and puked into the kitchen sink.
The next day my friends assured me that this is all part of learning to enjoy sushi. They had all gone through this, and in the end it’s worth it. They said the third time is a charm. I decided to give it “the old college try”. Because I was in college, and it’s something you do, along with forge documents, plagiarize essays, and have an affair with your Art History Professor.
I went with the same friends, to the same restaurant and ordered the same thing. They all stared at me like I was some kind of science project. They assured me that I would enjoy it. Secretly I wanted to cause their hypotheses to be incorrect, because they were all so confident, and I hate that about people, especially friends.
And, the third time I tried sushi, something changed. I dipped one side of the rice roll into the soy sauce bit it carefully. Something was different. It was wonderfully savoury and sweet, and salty. It was Heaven in a rice roll. I looked up at my friends. They were all staring at me, waiting for a reaction. They looked so smug and so sure of themselves. I just shrugged and excused myself to use the washroom.