Calling sushi terrible is like admitting you love Donald Trump. There are millions of us! Yet we cower like turtles in their shells, afraid of the backlash we’d face if we admitted such atrocities in public.
To be clear, I don’t support Donald Trump. He’s awful. Sushi, though, is just the worst, and even though I’ll be lambasted by the dozens who see this, it absolutely needs to be said.
People who love sushi: why do you love sushi?
Why do you love the musk of damp seaweed filling your nostrils? What is it about the stench of raw fish that appeals to you? Cuisine is not white rice sopping in vinegar, pooling in that disgusting green algae cocoon. Boston rolls at least contain shrimp, but MANGO ROLLS? Seriously? Covering imitation crab in mango paste is like pouring maple syrup on spam and calling it candied bacon.
Before I launch into a through deconstruction of sushi’s flaws, there is one aspect that deserves praise. Aesthetically, there is little to complain about. Sushi looks good. It’s pretty. Beautiful at times. It’s also convenient, a bite-sized piece of Asian flair you can pop into your mouth several times without feeling like a sack of potatoes. But those qualities do little to offset the myriad negatives wrapped snugly within the confines of the dark kelpy exterior. I don’t understand America’s seemingly ubiquitous love affair with sushi.
One caveat: as many of you know, I am allergic to several ingredients used to make sushi. But I have tried it, long ago, before I was completely aware of how serious my shellfish/tuna/cod allergy was. Call it a stroke of luck, because my esophagus did not seize upon eating the sushi. Who knows what was inside the roll? Does it matter? My taste buds revolted regardless.
No one ever smelled raw fish and said “That’s pleasant.” There are no scents on the market touting Fish de Cologne. Claiming that something “smells fishy” is a pervasive way of saying it smells like sweaty sneakers and sulphur.
Yet people readily appreciate that fishy odor when they enter a sushi establishment. This is different from that redolent by-the-bay essence you encounter at a seaside restaurant or crab shack. Instead of eliciting happy memories of summers past, the aroma of raw fish keeps one firmly planted in the present. I will never understand the smiles on patrons’ faces as they wallow in the sea of smells that society itself has deemed uncouth through its lexicon.
This section will be brief, because I have only had sushi a few times. There is little to say. In my most memorable episode, it caused the hair on my arms to stand tall while multiple shudders shook my body from head to toe. Fighting the urge to unleash my meal back onto the tablecloth, I quickly grabbed a glass of water and poured it like a waterfall down my throat. The instant relief was offset by the intractable taste that lingered in my mouth for what seemed like hours afterward. Everything I ate later that evening was tinged with sushi-ness, as if I had had a stroke and could no longer sense the differences on my palate. Was I young? Yes. But there is a cadre of foods I despised as a kid that I loathe to this day. That single experience was enough to turn me off to sushi for eternity.
THE UNIVERSAL ADORATION
There’s an overused joke – at this point, almost a theory – that if you’re in the vicinity of a vegan, you’ll know it soon because he or she will make a point of telling you about their eating habits.
Sushi lovers, in a way, are similar.
Holy moly, people. Seldom have I uttered “I don’t like sushi” and escaped unscathed. In my world, Hawthorne’s scarlet letter is an S for “sushi hater.” How can I possibly endorse a food with such a fervent, cultish following?
As far as food goes, the only comparable reactions I get are when I tell people I eat my cereal dry. These criticisms I can understand because as a culture, we’ve become inured to the milk/cereal combo; most cereals are made certain ways specifically to compliment the added milk. But sushi is not so ingrained. Sushi is just a food. That’s all.
A highly unscientific Google search backs up my suspicions regarding sushi’s unanimous acceptance. The term “sushi is awesome” returns more than 32 million results while the phrase “sushi is awful” has just over 4.5 million. Even the all-knowing Google is aware that sushi lovers are far more prominent than the rest of us.
A BRIEF DECONSTRUCTION OF SUSHI IN AMERICA
Look, I’ve never been to Japan, so I don’t know how sushi smells or tastes in its country of origin. In this country, however, things are different. I wonder if skilled Japanese sushi masters can conceal the fetor of fish and make the meal palatable. Do they at least make nori resembling a vessel instead of a flaccid eel that lost its mother? Because in America, they sure don’t.
Like many things, America got its meaty paws on sushi and America’d it. Nowhere is this more evident than in the uber-popular California roll, which thinks it’s so edgy because it puts the rice outside the nori, a rarity in Japan. But it doesn’t stop there. America heard you liked fresh ingredients and decided not to listen because California rolls are often chock full of imitation crab. How would you like it if your salad were made with imitation lettuce, or if your steak was made with imitation meat, or if your cookies were made with imitation flour? What is going on here?
More Western sushi, analyzed:
Hawaiian Roll. Typically contains canned tuna and shrimp powder. Not since Cain and Abel has a combination been so toxic. Tuna is pretty high on the list of things that don’t need to be canned. On the list of things that definitely don’t need to be powdered, I’d say shrimp takes the top spot.
Philadelphia Roll. Smoked salmon, cucumber, avocado…I guess I can handle tha-oh my god they put goddamn Philadelphia Cream Cheese on it. What the hell, America. Sushi, for all the awful things it already contains, should NOT CONTAIN DAIRY. I’ve also been led to believe that sushi is generally healthy. Leave it to Philadelphia to rain on that parade.
Mango Roll. Look, I already blasted mango rolls earlier in this post but let me just reiterate: fucking mango rolls. Per Wikipedia: “includes fillings such as avocado, crab meat, tempura shrimp, mango slices, and topped off with a creamy mango paste.” Mango paste. With shrimp. And crab meat, probably of the imitation variety. What?
And finally, calories. This article does a good job of comparing Japanese sushi to Western sushi in terms of calories and there are no surprises: sushi in America will kill you. There is nary a Japanese sushi roll over 200 calories, yet every American offering soars past that threshold like a comet through the solar system. The Spider roll, apparently a thing, comes in at a whopping 400 calories. And then there’s the Tampa roll. My god. Deep fried sushi rice with tempura batter and mayonnaise for an all-American 1,043 calories. From sea to shining sea, indeed.
SUSHI SUCKS, AT LEAST IN THE WEST
I am not a fan of sushi, that much is clear. My reasoning may be flawed, my opinions may be unpopular, my arguments may be lacking. All things considered, preliminary research indicates sushi may be more tolerable in Japan. Who knows? But don’t ready your sushi-tipped pitchforks, because it will only be reinforcing my thesis that sushi inspires cult-like shaming when a dissenter dares speak his or her mind.