food: sea urchin

I generally find cities frightening. London was fine because it seemed to me rather a large village, but Boston? Every time I go to Boston I get a headache, and very tired, and I need to go home and get to bed early. New York? Terrifying. Manny and I went there last month to see Aretha Franklin, and without a fair bottled menagerie I don’t think I could have made it home okay. It’s just that the buildings are so tall, and the cars go so fast, and there’s so many people everywhere you look, and the lights and sounds and smells, oh, it’s all too much for one who becomes overwhelmed just trying to choose a jar of peanut butter at the supermarket. And so, upon my return, the plan was to get imbibed, and to stay imbibed for the duration of my trip. Perhaps that would be enough to take the edge off and make me fearless of the city. It worked when it came to airplanes, so why not?

Needless to say, the plan was a success. And on Sunday Jordan and I were making our way up and down Upper West Side streets trying to find ourselves a cheap French restaurant. Our feet hurt because we value fashion so highly. But seeing a sushi joint, Water Moon, it occurred to me that if I might ever have a chance to try toro, fatty tuna, always on the menus, but never available, it would probably be in New York. And they had it. $8 for toro sashimi. Okay, I can deal with that, the price of dinner for a small chunk of fish. Fish, if you recall correctly, is something for which I have a very physical aversion, instant nausea, even reminiscing about it, open a can of tuna and I’ll have to leave the room and drink a coke and shut my eyes for hours, the smell, the taste, the memories of black eggs being found in the watery gray meat…but this tasted delicious, so very rich, all the wondrous essence of regular tuna now a thousand times more potent. What did I do before this existed? Jordan I sat quietly as we finished off the garnishes, mixing them with wasabi and soy sauce. And then, after some deliberation, decided to end our trek for lunch right here. She said it was my vacation, so it was my decision. So, as I’m apt to do in any situation, I ordered omakase, which resulted in a nearly $40 bill, and a second helping of toro, which tastes twice as good when you can’t afford it. Sparkling sake, and our bottle of gin that kept us going all day, and things were quite well, which is important when the chef presents one with a sea urchin, and you look at it, colored like the totems of Japanese fecal porn, textured like a tongue…
“And…what do you recommend that I put on it,” I asked, hoping, hoping he’d recommend I drown it in wasabi before holding my nose, nay, just drowning it, setting its car on fire, and leaving my gun behind. But there’s the problem…it’s a sea urchin. They don’t drown. And anything prefixed with “sea” becomes horrible:

Anemone: a buttercup.

Sea Anemone: a sedentary marine coelenterate who kisses you all night, “asks” you to go down on her, holds your hand in public, and stops answering your calls upon realizing that you weren’t making a joke when you called yourself penniless.

Cucumber: refreshing, and makes for a subtle body lotion.

Sea cucumber: If you were prettier, I wouldn’t mind the way you turn into a bitch every time something catches you off guard.

Dog: adorable.

Sea dog: So I was surprised to find that the first Greek person I met was a regular Aryan beauty, and began remembering all the post-9/11 propaganda about swarthiness, all the things that Princess Jasmine isn’t, and so, yes, it’s clear, all occidental notions of beauty blossomed in the Mediterranean.

Fan: someone who finds Jesus just after her boyfriend collapses to the other side of the bed, snores, and you’re left to wipe your own tears away, this wasn’t supposed to be how the first time goes, it wasn’t, it was supposed to be beautiful, he doesn’t love me at all, and the sunlight through the sheer curtains, like a hand, shows you the Holy Spirit in the flesh, and because you didn’t get off, you’re still technically…well, even Paul had to Become celibate, let’s be serious here, and spends the rest of her days getting crunk, showing her nipples off, and trying to convince others that this is the new good news.

Sea Fan: a horny coral. Wet, rock hard, pulsing, and of the Gorgonis genera. Gorgons are always bad news, because not only do they possess unfortunate physiognomies, but they’re also bitches.

Gooseberry: maybe it looks and tastes like a testicle, but…well, it’s still a berry.

Sea Gooseberry: This isn’t even a berry. It’s a jellyfish that swarms.

Hare: eats carrots.

Sea Hare: a slug.

Anyway, the list goes on, and the point is, I wouldn’t eat a regular urchin, even if it goes to church, and now I’m faced with this horrid sea monster that comes packed in loaves like pate, a food I’ve never eaten, but now doesn’t seem half so scary as before, and a smiling sushi chef whose eager anticipation keeps his eyes from blinking. Yes, fine, I’ll eat it. But there’s so much of it I’ll take a bite first…the consistency of toothpaste, but very cold, okay, just eat it, ignore that sharp I-Haven’t-Bathed-In-Two-Weeks-Kiss-Me-Down-There delicate quality on my tongue, and then…yes, finish the other half. And all the Nietzsche in the world isn’t enough to help me overcome these thoughts, crushed under the stone that is repulsion, that is…that is…

Delight upon finding that, indeed, salmon sashimi tastes identical to lox, and I recall my grandparents, during Sunday morning brunches, commanding me to never, ever, eat sushi, not on my life, not on their lives, it’s unsanitary. Well, the restaurant we went to has an unusually great number of offenses according to the Board of Health…but, even if it’s unsanitary, it was a delicious lunch, and as I trickled asleep on the subway home, I felt immensely proud of myself, you know, eating a sea urchin like a real Ubermensch, yeah, yeah, yeah, I lost my page in Nietzsche as my head fell on Jordan’s shoulder.

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