My boyfriend John is excellent at presents. The first Christmas we were together, he gave me Ella Fitzgerald’s complete Songbooks CD set, and in order to get it on time, he had to make a special deal with the UPS man and meet him in someone else’s yard on the other side of town. It was crazy. That same year, I probably gave him slippers.
Recently, for my birthday, he gave me a beautiful book on sushi technique, a bamboo mat and paddle-thingy, and a very, very, very sharp knife. He knew how badly I’d wanted to learn about sushi, but I had been afraid it would be too hard. For months before my birthday, he encouraged my discouragement so that I wouldn’t suddenly get up the nerve to try it. Because he is also excellent at being very sneaky.
And since he had already given me an amazing sushi serving set (complete with little teacups and a sake carafe) a few years before, I suddenly had everything I needed and no excuses. I made the rice according to the directions in my new book, sliced all the ingredients with the sharpest knife I’ve ever been permitted to touch, and prepared myself emotionally for failure.
I knew enough to expect a lot of missing skills in wrestling the sushi ingredients into a pretty roll, and a lot of I-don’t-have-enough-hands moments, and I didn’t know how many times I’d mess it up before getting the hang of it. A lot of times, I figured. Probably a whole lot of times. And I had to be ready so I wouldn’t decide to throw in the towel now that I had such a lovely collection of accoutrements.
But here’s the thing.
It was kind of no big deal.
The book gives clear, specific instructions, and has tons of step-by-step pictures. The rice is very sticky. It holds everything together so you don’t have to. The bamboo mat makes it almost impossible to roll any way but the right way. And the nori can’t help but seal itself up at the bottom. There’s no wrestling. That stuff wants to be sushi already. When I first loaded my mat and rolled it up and was rewarded with a proper, successful inside-out roll, I hardly knew what to do with myself. I had prepared for so much frustration and disappointment, and now this! I tried to get disappointed about the lack of disappointment, but I was way too excited about my dumb little cucumber roll.
So I guess anybody can make sushi. Who knew? The toughest part is figuring out exactly how much filling needs to go into each roll, but it’s forgiving, so even that’s no big deal. Turns out sushi is actually a really laid back thing to make and doesn’t require much skill at all.
After I’d made a cucumber roll, a smoked salmon cream cheese roll, and a California roll, I got bold and started to experiment with whatever else we had in the fridge—asparagus, green beans, broccoli, hot sauce. My favorite invention consisted of chopped raw broccoli florets, raw green beans, spicy mayonnaise, and panko. Yum. Crunchy.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that sushi is easy and you should try it. So no recipe today. Just put delicious things that you like to eat on top of rice and nori and roll it up and eat it. There, there’s your recipe. Now get out of here—don’t you have some rice that needs steaming?
NOTE: This has been my second-round entry for Project Food Blog. If you have the inclination and about 30 seconds to kill (five seconds if you’re already registered), please click here to vote to keep me in the contest. Thank you!