I do love Japanese food, but there are some dishes that I think I can never eat or will never eat again. I wonder how many of you think the same way as I do.
Natto (fermented soybean) is one of the foods, that can divide the people in Japan. One group for ‘likers’ and another for ‘dislikers’. Some like it very much and say that it increases their appetite. That when they eat natto they can eat more rice. Some dislike it and describe it as the stinkiest, foulest food they’ve ever known exist. Well, for me, I don’t really think it is that stinky. The odor is not that bad for me. It is not stinky, but, it is sticky. So sticky that it looks like something that comes out of our nose when we have a cold. I’m sorry. I can’t just digest it, or even put it in my mouth. One time, there was natto in the school lunch. And as a teacher, we should be role models, we should eat what is being served, but, guess what? I politely gave it to the teacher adviser, saying “Sorry, I can’t eat it.” And before I knew it, a few hours later, the news has spread in the teachers room. “The English teacher doesn’t eat natto.”
I like sashimi. I like sushi. My favorite is salmon. Just salmon. If you give me squid or octopus, no, thank you. I remember my sister telling me how good raw squid is, that it is soft and sweet. That was when I first came to Japan and she was trying to introduce me to Japanese food. She took me to a real nice sushi restaurant. The one where the sushi chef will make the sushi in front of you, serve them nicely with their hands. It was a course style so the sushi maker had to serve the pieces one by one. And when it was time to eat the squid sushi, I was hit by a surprise. It was not soft at all for me. Every time I chew, the meat will just slide, and it seems it was still moving inside my mouth. I wanted to spit it out, but the chef was in front of us smiling and saying “Ikagadesuka?” (How is it?), so I had to pretend that I liked it and with all my strength tried to chew the slimy-kicking rubber inside my mouth and swallow it with all my might. I almost cried, but I still managed to smile. But, since that day, never ever will I eat raw squid. And just by then, I also dislike raw octopus. They’re relatives so I have to be careful.
Do you know basashi? Well, at first I did not know about it at all. All I knew was that it is a name of a food. A kind of sashimi –raw food. So, back to my first days in Japan, my brother-in-law, a Japanese, brought home packs of sashimi. He was happily introducing to me the many kinds of sashimi. It was really good. I dipped it in wasabi and soy sauce, and wow! That was heaven. Then, there was this red sashimi he wanted me to try, so I tried it without asking. And after chewing that one piece of sushi, he asked me if I knew what it was, that it was horse meat! Gosh! Horse meat! How could you people eat horse meat –raw! How could I do that! But, I just did! I could almost not forgive myself. In our country, horse is a farm animal that is used for transportation. A vehicle in its own way. How could I eat a vehicle! A pet! Actually, the taste was not really bad, but I would never eat it again. I just don’t like the idea.
And kujira. What’s kujira? It’s a whale. Yes. Whale meat. Eaten raw. I could never imagine myself eating that big swimming thing. Scary. It makes me think that some time the whales will just come to me in revenge and devour me in return. Sounds weird, but, I don’t know. It’s just that I don’t think whales are consumable. Even if they are, I still can’t change my mind.
How about you? What are the foods in Japan that you don’t like?