Stories vary, but sushi probably first arrived in the US in the 1950’s or 60’s; a time when most Americans had yet to sample anything more interesting than pot roast. Since then, we’ve taken a real shine to the stuff. (I suspect it’s because eating with chopsticks makes us feel cultured.)
I started eating sushi about 5 years ago and, while my adventures in this culinary area have been fairly limited, I’ve come across some interesting, and almost certainly untraditional treats. The one I found today got me thinking about how Americanized sushi has become, so I thought I’d share. This, my friends, is the peanut avocado roll:
I found this tasty creature at Tokyo Sushi Bar in Tampa, FL, and it’s exactly what it looks like: rice, nori, avocado, and honey roasted peanuts. Dipped in soy sauce, it was salty, sweet, and delightful. But it’s also quite strange.
A little research taught me that avocado was likely first introduced to sushi in the 1960’s, in California. A chef made the connection between the texture and fattiness of the avocado and that of the more expensive tuna, and a staple of American sushi was born.
The structure of our sushi has been Americanized as well. Never mind the fact that rolls dominate US sushi menus, while sashimi and nigiri might be more popular in Japan, we also don’t seem to like allowing nori to touch our delicate tongues. Maybe it’s the texture, maybe it’s the flavor (if you’re me, it’s both), but we like to hide our nori neatly under a blanket of rice.
Sushi has existed since about the 8th century, when it was primarily a means of preserving fish with fermented rice. Its creators might be horrified at its evolution, or they might be happy fermented rice is off the menu.
The thing is, if the food is enjoyable, who cares how Americanized or traditional it is? One should go about life with an open mind, ready for new experiences. In the sushi world, this might mean giving the big, intimidating slab of raw fish a try, even though you’ve only ever had a California roll. It also means not judging the guy who tried the slab of fish and decided he just likes the California roll more.
The experience, and the willingness to enjoy it, are the most important things. Try the safe thing and try the scary thing, then go back for seconds of whichever you like best.