Thursday, November 02, 2006

Iron Chef Finds Nemo

While salsa dancing may have been a bit too quick for us, pottery making was much, much too slow. Would we ever find a happy medium?

Well, with the help of a little sticky rice, I thought yes. I thought I'd found the perfect date for Jamie and Jason, involving both food (Jason's favourite), and the making of food (Jamie's favourite). The raw fish part was just the element of surprise to keep things interesting (and possibly parasitic).

Jason and I are sushi snobs. Well, maybe not snobs. We don't think we're too good for sushi, we're just afraid of dying from painful intestinal implosions.

We were immediately put at ease when we found our way into the instructional kitchen - there was one "stage" kitchen, and then 6 smaller work stations spaced around the room. Each island had counter space, a sink, a cutting board, a set of knives - all things that I could name. If relief was a perfume, I would have been doused in it. Jason and I snagged a station in the back. A mother and daughter team had arrived early to ensure the front spot. They wore matching sweater sets and pearls (hand to god, it's true).

The rest of the couples seemed normal enough, and they all filtered in on time, which was great. Then we could all stand around together, waiting for the teacher, wondering what some of these implements were, and trying to avoid eye contact with the mother\daughter team who had introduced themselves without anyone having asked -

"I'm Theresa!" the mother had just suddenly shouted into the room.

"I'm Theresa2!" the daughter had quickly followed.

Well, maybe she might have said Theresa too, but it doesn't really matter since I wasn't calling either of them Theresa in my head.

And then the door swung open dramatically, and a small man turned out all the lights except the pot-lights directed at the kitchen. Idiot1 and Idiot2 started clapping like they were on a game show, and the greasy little man jogged across the room to his stage kitchen with his arm raised, acknowledging the enthusiastic applause of the Idiots (and the reluctant, tepid, confused applause of the rest) before taking a bow.

"Welcome to my Greek Fat Big Kitchen!" he said in his Greek fat big accent.

I choked a bit before laughter blew out of my mouth. I'd tried to keep it in, I swear.

To cover the fact that I was laughing at him, I shouted "Oh, just like the movie!" and hoped it would seem that I was just laughing at his joke (which he had botched, which was why I was laughing. Oy.)

So this was the guy, in his lovely peach-coloured blouse and his pointy-toed Beatle boots, who would teach us to make sushi.

Okay then.

Jason was sent up to the front to retrieve our tray of ingredients out of the fridge, but on his way back I thought he'd taken the wrong one – he appeared to have a tray containing oddly-coloured blobs of jello. But once he got closer, the smell confirmed it was indeed fish (though to be fair, it was only a faint smell - high grade fish doesn't smell as much as you'd think).

Mr. Greek (he asked us to call him that) got to work. He was wearing a microphone, which is thoughtful, except that his peach blouse crinkled so much we couldn't decipher a single word he was saying. Luckily, there was a big mirror angled on his cook station from up above, and we followed along with that.

The first thing we did was take rough pieces of ugly-patterned wallpaper, and put them on our bamboo mats. I think I heard that the wallpaper was actually dried-seaweed, but it looked like it had recently been peeled off my grandmother's dining room walls. Anyway. Then we took some rice out of the rice cooker and mixed it with a bit of vinegar before making a small slug of rice on top of the wallpaper. Then we learned how to slice raw fish with funny-looking knives, and put slivers of the orange jello on top of the rice slugs. Then we added some green goop (could this be wasabi?) and were encouraged to wet the ends of our wallpaper so that the "glue" would stick – anyone going to tell me that it's not wallpaper now? Then, judging by Mr. Greek's mirror, we were supposed to use magic to roll up the wallpaper. I gently rolled one end of my bamboo mat up to meet the top, and ended up with a dark phallus in front on me, which Mr. Greek licked his lips at lustily before pronouncing "You put in mouth now!" Jason, on the other hand, ended up with an inverted mess. His wallpaper didn't roll at all, but somehow he ended up with the whole thing upside down, orange jello on the bottom, and wallpaper on top. We wiped that shit into the garbage before Mr. Greek could notice. But we did slice mine up, and each had a piece. It Fucking OHMIGOD steam coming out of my ears hot. So we were spared having to actually taste the wallpaper or orange jello but got a strong dose of the green goop. My tearducts did not calm down for 3 whole hours. This, my friends, is Maki sushi (so said the little card Mr. Greek placed in front of his, like it was a museum piece. We all gazed at it lovingly).

Then we shook off our successes and failures (one guy had rice on his shoe, which we pretended not to notice, and the Idiots were smacking their lips and calling their sushi "divine") and prepared for round 2.

First we had to wash our hands in watery vinegar. Then we were supposed to take some rice and roll it into an oval shape. Apparently I can't do ovals, but I can do lumpy balls, which I deemed "good enough". Jason's rice wouldn't ball up at all, so instead he just made a small mountain using spoons and willpower, which I felt was cheating. Then we were supposed to to apply the green goop again, which I did very sparingly this time, just a hint of green, actually, because you won't catch me lighting my own mouth on fire twice in one night. Then we sliced up some of the red jello (tuna, maybe?) and arranged that artfully on top. And that's it. That's it? Yeah, that's it. Tasting time came all too quickly this time around, and lo and behold, my chopsticks lifted up my proud little lump and deposited it directly into my mouth, which is when I panicked and thought If I don't chew, I won't taste it, and then followed that gem up with If I don't chew, I am likely to choke to death, and some poor autopsy guy will find red jello in my throat. So I chewed. And it wasn't bad. Of course, due to the burning-to-the-crisp of my taste buds, it felt as if I was chewing cardboard, but to me, cardboard is favourable to raw fish, so I was pleased with the result. Jason, however, attempted to pick up his pile of rice with his chopsticks and ended up scattering the whole thing on the floor (although some of the rice stuck persistently to his sweater).

So if you're keeping score, that's Sushi: 2, Jason: 0.

And that's what they call Nigiri. God, now that I think of it, I hope that these are actual sushi names and not just the pet names that Mr. Greek has for his fish. Maybe I should have looked that shit up.


Last one. We cut up the remaining jello into bite sized chunks (I recognized salmon, abalone, and according to the squirmy arm movements of Mr. Greek, I'm thinking we had some squid or eel or something in there too). Then we prepared a sauce using soy sauce and ginger and the green stuff, which we were then encouraged to dip our fish into. This is sashimi, apparently, the lazy man's sushi, for those days when you just can't wait to start eating raw sea creatures. I selected the nicest, whitest, least-scariest piece of fish, bathed it generously in the sauce, and put it in my mouth.

8 minutes of chewing later, I was able to swallow the thing (maybe you're supposed to just let it slide down your throat?). I was still unable to taste a thing. Jason selected a piece of his own, dipped it in sauce, and put it in his mouth. I saw him chew. I saw him turn green. I saw the panic in his pretty brown eyes before he casually leaned over the sink and spit as if his life depended on it.

Final score: Sushi 3, Jason 0.

Mr. Greek shook hands with us as we left and said "Hope to see you back very, very more faster". And honestly, we might go back. We had fun. But we have fun no matter what we're doing together.

We went out for martinis afterwards to cleanse our pallet. We ate our olives with chopsticks, and we toasted our success: we may not be top sushi chefs, but at least we sucked together.

No comments: