When was the last time it happened to you: You looked across the table at that friend you’ve always envied…The dinner party is always livened up by him, everyone wants to be the first to say hi, everyone tries to nail down lunch with him. Or perhaps all her finances are in order, she’s got a nice car, she lives in a gorgeous flat with a balcony overlooking downtown L.A. Or maybe he’s really good with animals…they simply slobber all over him, while they snap at you. Or maybe she got married young to Mr. Perfect, and they live in a Perfect Villa on Perfect Road with two Perfect Children and a Perfect Hydrangea?
If this has happened to you…lighten up a little. There’s a good chance that they’re sushi.
No, I don’t mean that they’re actually tobiko-filled, nori-wrapped automatons disguised as humans. I mean they’re figurative sushi.
Ha ha. No kidding, right?
Yesterday, my year-long plan was finally fulfilled, as I gathered all my ingredients for my improv dragon-roll, pictured above.
Popping Hello-Panda’s as I worked, I did everything exactly as described on my recipe. And if you believe that, I also have a bridge to sell you, and maybe a few nice Rolex watches.
The truth is, I fudged it. And as a result, I pulled it off without barbeque eel (wonder why I couldn’t find THAT at the grocery store?) or tobiko (Flying fish roe—same situation; What kind of store wouldn’t carry tobiko?!), and I only made one roll, so I had to alter the proportions on my recipe. I did it without a calculator.
My cucumber slices were sloppy. My avocado was mushy and old, and I way overcooked my shrimp (although I must admit that the tempura was a very tasty option!). I think there was too much vinegar in the sushi rice, and I got tempura dipping sauce to sauté the shrimp, not straight tempura.
Improvising a sheet of…uh…well, I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t bamboo—I rolled the nori, and tried to cut it into slices. Maybe I used the wrong knife, perhaps a hack-saw would’ve been in order. Either way, remind me to write the U.S. government and tell them that they really must start using nori in making bullet-proof vests and vaults for banks.
The two end pieces became my sampling pieces.
After an hour and a half’s toil, I finally came up with the above-pictured roll, which looks less like a dragon and more like a whale beached on an Okinawa shore, then salvaged by starved natives with nothing but butter knives.
With the digusting ends gone, finally, yes, finally I had my long-besought sushi.
A relative was at my place that day cooking with me, and when she saw me photographing my sushi, she exclaimed, “Oh! Can you take a picture of my salad?!”
She pointed to the array on the far right. “Those are marinated raw mushrooms.”
Such a master of the kitchen.
Yes, yes. That makes me feel real good about my beached-whale-roll.
In the end, the slices that I cut were far too big for one bite, and I ended up having to destroy the segments in order to eat them without gagging on oversized balls of rice wrapped in unchewable nori.
I gave in and had Brazilian-style beans & rice for dinner, and my friend was generous enough to let me have some of her ninja-awesome salad.
The point of this whole story?
Those friends of yours, those “Made-it’s”, what stage are they in? They may look like perfect sushi now, but have you seen their whole story? Have you seen which parts of the recipe they skipped? Have you seen them browsing the racks at the local supermarket, looking desperately for anything that looks like tobiko? (And like, what does that even look like—does it come in a can? A jar?)
They may look like perfect makizushi right now. But wait until dinner time, when they find out that the nori is impenetrable, that they put too much vinegar in the rice, that the avacodo went a week ago.
Or maybe they really are perfect sushi right now. But who’s to say that it didn’t take them an incredible amount of time in the kitchen (and plenty of epic mistakes) to get there?
Don’t get discouraged, don’t feel like some awful failure. When you’re served a perfect dragon roll, know this—that you don’t know what went on in the kitchen.