There was actually a time in my life when I couldn’t eat fish. Sure, when I was in middle school, “daring” consisted of a thin layer of lox atop a thick smear of cream cheese on an everything bagel. So along with eggs and mushrooms, I couldn’t tolerate even the mention of fish for dinner without a long whining Ew. Kids are picky eaters. That’s not what I’m talking about. It’s not that I wouldn’t eat raw fish; I actually couldn’t. Couldn’t have hot dogs or too much caffeine, and I certainly couldn’t have sushi. I was pregnant.
Giving up alcohol didn’t bother me. Nixing coffee sucked so bad. But the no sushi rule, hands down, killed me. I remember sitting at Sushi of Gari on the upper east side, ordering creative rolls with mango and avocado. Imitation grab. It’s all imitation sushi if you ask me. I wanted a fix of raw, real bad. The beads of rice stuck to my chopsticks. I was ready to lunge for just a lick of spicy tuna. I left the meal unsatisfied and cranky. This sucks.
Now, I eat it for breakfast. I’m not talking day old, cold from the fridge leftovers here. There’s a market near where I work, and in preparation for the lunch crowd, the sushi gets going quite early. I love sushi for its variety of textures and flavors. The bounce of salmon, the cool mush of avocado, the subtle hint of sesame. I could go on, but I won’t.
Sushi feels clean. A few years ago, I ate it at least once a day. My mother worried. “Stephanie, I worry about all that raw fish in your system. You’re going to get stomach cancer. No, I’m serious.” So now I eat it at least 5 times a week.
When I was a food critic, I could tell a decent restaurant by their drinking water (did it still have whole ice cubes in it), by the bread (hello–warm pull apart rolls with whipped creamy butter), and whether or not they folded your napkin while you were in the loo. When it comes to sushi, the litmus test is the spicy tuna roll. It’s my go to move.