So I've been stuck in a trance all my life, a self-confessed Sushifile (lover of sushi) when in reality the only sushi I've ever tried has been from a supermarket, Pret A Manger or in a Boots meal-deal. (Side note: my computer keeps trying to auto-correct Pret A Manger to Pet A Manger - which instead of "ready to eat", means "pet to eat" which is pretty sick. NB: Sick in the original sense of the word, not the modernised meaning of "cool" or "rad").
A couple nights ago I went to a Japanese restaurant called Sushi Jade in the 10th with a bunch of friends to eat sushi (surprisingly), à la buffet. It was marvellous. There was so much to choose from - like diving head-first into the ocean. Seaweed, salmon, prawns, rice, soy sauce, wasabi, chilli, spring rolls, miso soup, tofu, fungi and other nourishing goodies were scattered in glorious array on three grand counters. There was even something my friend described as "intestines", although he wasn't sure which animal or fish they belonged to. I wasn't entirely convinced however, certain they were simply frilly weeds which grow on the sea floor. Not that that sounds much more appetizing.
But when it came down to it, it was nice to finally eat a real prawn in Paris. After my shocking experience (see Prawns with that?), it was clear no prawn-cutters were involved and these were indeed REAL prawns, plucked from the ocean, eyes and all. Although you did have a choice to have the heads on or off. While my friend decided to have the crustacean in its entirety, I opted for the slightly less "in your face" version which still had a tail and legs, but no black beady eyes staring at me. And since I wouldn't be eating the eyes anyway, I decided I wasn't missing out. After plunging the prawn into some spicy water which was slowly bubbling away on a stove in the middle of our table, I watched it bounce along the bottom of the pan, bumping into a few bits of overcooked tofu, feeling slightly guilty that its life was cut short for my pure eating pleasure. The guilt subsided as soon as I removed its tail and shell, de-legged it, and popped it in my mouth. Oh so tender.
Conversation turned towards a certain fish notorious in Japanese cuisine which has a habit to kill off people if not cooked properly. Morbid chat at the dinner table is always my favourite. Meet the pufferfish (aka Fugu). You may be thinking of the character in Finding Nemo. The one that talks, cracks a few jokes, makes a fool of itself, randomly explodes from time to time. But think again. Pufferfish meat is notorious due to the very fact that if prepared incorrectly it is lethally poisonous. Why anyone would want to attempt to eat it when there are surely tastier, and less lethal alternatives on the market, is beyond me. Talk about living an edgy life. The chemical it contains is tetrodotoxin which is situated within the Fugu's internal organs and skin and has the ability to paralyze muscles, while its victim stays full conscious. In a nutshell, your breathing is severely affected through your body's inability to consume sufficient oxygen, and you die of asphyxiation. Hence why only specially licensed chefs are actually allowed to prepare the potentially lethal dish. I wouldn't want to be the guinea pig in one of those restaurants...
And the pufferfish has a pretty morbid connection to Haiti where elements of the lethal fish were used in bokor's sorcery - the art of zombification, which was used as a punishment for serious crimes. What no-one realised however was that while the fish had the ability to kill, more often than not it made people act as if they were dead, despite being quite the contrary. Thinking they were dead, people would be buried alive. But since they were only temporarily resting, the victims, having been sentenced to the ground, would essentially resurrect themselves from "the dead" and believe themselves to be zombies. I'd like to thank my friend Ben for this interesting story. So in four days’ time on Halloween, you'll know the implications about dressing up as a Zombie.
Watch this space.