Bringing you the issues since 1986

View Online Print Edition


In love and sushi, compromise is on the menu

February 2011

My first real date with my mate-to-be was either going to be a romantic disaster or an exercise in relationship realism.

We met through friends. Then there were days of long phone calls. Of course, I am talking about an antediluvian period of the Earth’s history, namely pre-Internet.

(Permit a brief digression: Recently I spent time with a group of third- and fourth-graders and talked to them about food writing. With me was a photographer in her 30s. We were working with schools as part of a project under the Blue Met literary festival. During the chat, the photographer mentioned she had taken her first pictures with her parents’ camera as she hadn’t had one as a kid. “Miss,” asked a young girl, “didn’t your cellphone have a camera?”)

But back to the phone—a landline of course—hardwired to the wall. At some point, it seemed logical that if we were spending this much time on the phone, we should get together. I suggested dinner at my place. To plan for the evening, I decided to go Japanese: This way there would be something to talk about in case our previous phone chats proved to be the highlight of our relationship.

My mate-to-be came over, duly impressed that I was cooking. I laid out the freshly cut tuna, the wasabi mustard, the hand-sliced and pickled ginger, the various kinds of fish I had brought fresh from the market and sliced and layered on fingers of rice, the rolls of sushi. My mate-to-be was, she told me later, mulling this over.

“This guy is interesting,” goes her internal dialogue. “I hate sushi and in particular raw fish. If I tell him this, he may be insulted and I may never see him again. However, if I don’t tell him, I may end up eating this the rest of my life.”

There is a long, non-conversational pause, so I pour some sake. Eventually, she decides. “This is very nice, but I don’t eat sushi.”

“That’s not a problem.” I say, as I think: “More for me.” I sip some sake and get the next course underway, knowing that there can be nothing wrong with deep-fried veggies and shrimp.

And this is how our relationship has progressed. It works well for the flavourguy, a.k.a. the refrigerator chef. Mate-to-be, now mate-for-many-wonderful-years, buys what is on sale—cheap cuts of meat, bushels of veggies—and we make them together. I haul out whatever is in the refrigerator and work on that. The secret to a long-term relationship, as I learned from that first date, is to come with a Plan B. It is not the food that counts, but the meal. The objective is never to focus on only that truly amazing dish, but to eat well together–and compromise is always on the menu.

A bit of batter goes a long way

Mix a cup of flour with a teaspoon of cornstarch and a dash of salt. In another bowl, beat an egg, a cup of ice water and a tablespoon of white wine, sherry or sake.

Peel and thinly slice such firm veggies as carrots, eggplant, celery, raw asparagus, and red or green sweet peppers. Prepare slices of chicken, shrimp, scallops, etc., which have been thawed and patted dry. Dust the meat and fish lightly with flour.

Heat oil in a pot until it is 375F (190C). A cube of bread will brown in a minute at that temperature. When ready, mix the dry ingredients into the beaten egg. Dip the meat, fish and veggies into the batter and fry them, a few at a time, until golden brown. Take your time doing this so that the oil temperature doesn’t drop. Drain the tempura on a rack, ideally over the oil, and then on paper towels and keep them on a platter in a warm oven until ready to serve. Serve with soy sauce thinned with sake or white wine, or a tempura dipping sauce, available in many supermarkets.



Post a Comment