The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fifteen Spice Tuna Roll

Tom Cruise's new movie Valkyrie is getting decent reviews, but it's amazing to me that EVERYONE keeps mentioning the couch-jumping incident in their reviews. We have such an odd and fragile relationship with our heros. Can anyone tell me why jumping on a couch whilst praising your beard (I mean, new wife) is worse than, oh, punching Paparrazzi, hurling phones at people, shoplifting, crashing cars or whatever? I mean, it was just a couch jump.


Had a Jamba Juice move in down the street. Love it. As fast food goes, pretty damned good.


Today will be my first day on the far side of all the work I've been up to my ears in for the last months. As the year winds to a close, I see that the work ahead looks REALLY interesting. I've got a major non-fiction project, a historical suspense novel set in the "Israel Hills" freeman settlement in Virginia in the1800's, and a major SF piece, related to "Kundalini Equation" for which I've been doing my Superstring research. This has been an incredible year, and I really wonder what's coming next.


Wonder what's up with Rick Warren and the inauguration? My guess is that Obama is in favor of gay rights (what people parse during elections is a bit different from what they say later). But we'll see. Like I've said: I think this guy is scary smart, but whether that will translate into being a fine President is another matter. The drama is thick, isn't it?


Seems to me that gay marriage is a done deal, but it will take a while for the idea to propagate. I just don't see a non-Biblical argument that is worth much, and tend to agree that even the Biblical arguments are very clear cases of picking and choosing--starting with the PREMISE that homosexuality is "wrong" and then searching for justifications. At least, that's how it feels.


What is your favorite food? Mine is sushi, no doubt about it. When it's mediocre, it's still healthy. When it's good, it is transcendent. Yellowtail damn near melts in your mouth. And if you're lucky, you get one of those quirky sushi chefs who entertain while they make the Godzilla rolls. My favorite Sushi story:

About twelve years ago, I'm at a sushi bar with Larry Niven. We're having a great time, when I notice that the guys next to me have ordered a tasty-looking hand roll. The chef is adding all kinds of spices I've never seen, and my mouth is watering. I ask: "What is that?" The chef says: "Fifteen spice tuna roll." I said: "make me one, please!"

He grinned. The guys next to me chuckled, and a ripple of ominous laughter surged through the bar as the chef began to construct my choice. I began to feel a bit unnerved, and asked (finally): "Ah...exactly what is a Fifteen spice tuna roll?"

The chef gave me a look that to this day I cannot decipher. Pity? Mockery? Admiration? Hell if I know.

"`One spice' Tuna roll very hot tuna roll," he said. "Two spice tuna roll...twice as hot."

Larry broke up, as did the rest of the bar. The chef placed the hand roll, oozing with toxic sauces and exotic foreign poisons that could never be smuggled past Homeland Security today...and I picked it up. I knew that this was likely to be painful, but if I did it, I would give a dear friend a story he could tell on me for years. Merry Christmas, Larry, I muttered to myself, and ate.

Mother of God. To this day, my tongue hasn't forgiven me. It made my old college roommate's Atomic Chili, which had to be handled with asbestos gloves, taste like vanilla ice cream.

The horror. The horror.

But the worst thing was kinda good, too. Got any fun food stories?


Michelle said...

Spicy yellow fav. I really, really love it.

Best food story: When I was in college we would spend every Christmas eve at the local sushi house. One year we took a friend who had never had sushi before. He looks at the green stuff on his plate.

"What's this?"

"Wasabi, it's like horseradish..." Before I can finish, he pops the enter tablespoon full in his mouth. OMG he, he manages to swallow it, and then starts screaming. We manage, between fits of laughter to start passing him saki cups.

Of course this is the same guy who ate a whole plateful of Rocky Mountain Oysters, then asked what they really were.

Pagan Topologist said...

I don't like sushi.

As to a favorite food, there are so many that I really like that narrowing it down to a single one is not readily possible. I think the foods I enjoy most, lately, are Chinese style stir fry dishes that I season whimsically with things like salt, black and red pepper, cinnamon, ginger, etc. I use a variety of vegetables and meats in them, but always onions, at least a couple of kinds of mushrooms, and squash. Typically either beef cubes, Italian sausage, or lamb. Almost always some diced celery.

One dish that I have never cooked myself, but really like, is escargot. It might qualify as a favorite of sorts. But I would tire of it on a daily basis.

Master Plan said...

Sushi is good.

We used to have a wings place here, "Fowl Play", advertised "Wings and things". They had a 1 - 10 temperature scale for their wings. So being young (and dumb, goes w.o. saying right?) I figured I'd try these "10" wings.

They smelled like some some weird chemical there's not really another way to describe it. They were not really "hot" in fact they made my mouth feel "cold" pretty rapidly, before I lost sensation and the ability to taste, and then slowly that was replaced by horrible horrible burning.

I can still "smell" and "taste" them today by invoking the memory.

As Ralph Wigum once said, "it tastes like burning!".

Josh Jasper said...

Rick Warren? Obama is reaching out to the conservative Christians, who're all anti-gay. Rick Warren is a liar, but then so are all of them. If Obama is going to get real work done, he'll have to deal with jackasses like Warren. Perhaps he can change Warren's mind on Civil Unions.

Personally, I'd have been somewhat more in favor of Richard Cizik, who can at least accept civil unions in public. He can't say the "M" word, but at least he's not totally against civil rights.

Spicy food? I can take it. I used to sit around with my best friend getting drunk on Sake and piling on the wasabi onto cheap sushi just for the burn (we later graduated to really hot Thai and South Indian food) and to see who blinked first.

So there we were having a wasabi battle, and slugging back hot sake. we must have been 20, 21, or so. At some point, we notice our old high school swim coach sitting at a nearby table, watching us eat green smeared octopus. "You boys like that stuff?" he asked. We nodded. "That's better than cocaine!" he said, with a wild glint in his eye.

Marty S said...

My favorite food is a Yonah Schimmel cheese bagel. This not to be confused with any other bagel you have ever eaten. There is no bread involved. It is a sweet cheese concoction baked inside of a dough and shaped like one of those fancy pretzels you buy in a mall.
Favorite food story involves my first slice of pizza. I was with a group of high school friends and they decided to stop at a pizza place. I had never eaten pizza wasn't particularly interested in trying it. One of the guys offered a bet that no one could eat a slice covered with red pepper flakes. I tended to like spicy foods so I took him up on the bet and that's how I became a pizza fan.

Master Plan said...

Those red pepper flakes improve basically everything I've found. Even desserts.

They did not improve my eye-sight however, a painful but scientifically necessary experiment. ;-)

Unknown said...

My 1st sushi experience was a disaster - I also ate a ball of wasabi. I eventually learned how to eat Japanese food and it is now my favorite food.

Anonymous said...

A lost bet caused me to have to eat half a habenero pepper in a taco at Manuel's Restaurant in Boyle Heights long ago. Jesus H. Christ. There was NO way I could be told I wouldn't be in serious, serious need of a morphine drip, and a liberally flowing one at that, upon my next bowel movement.

Brian Dunbar said...

Got any fun food stories?

I ate octopus sold by a street vendor on Okinawa.

No wait, there is a story here.

A Marine from my unit and I were out for the night. Neither one of us appreciated strip clubs so we avoided Kinville .. and ducked into a bar to get out of the rain.

The owner was just opening up for the night, and was delighted to see us. Between us Brad and I spent about $40.00 on booze - and the owner bought us every other round on the house.

I have never been that boozy, yet conscious, ever before. And never again, either.

Long after dark the owner decided we needed to go to a club. So off we went. On the way we mentioned getting some chow .. and he stopped and bought octopus from a street vendor.

So he said. What it was was ... a chunk of meat floating in glob of snot. I slurped and chewed on mine. I think I did a good job of hiding my gag as it slid down my throat ...

'You like it?' Brad asked.

I nodded.

'Good, you can have mine.'

So I ate that one too.

It still tasted like a chunk of chewy meat in a glob of snot.

Steve Perry said...

"What is your favorite food? Mine is sushi, no doubt about it. When it's mediocre, it's still healthy."

Tell that to Jeremy Piven, who is leaving his role on Broadway in Speed the Plow because of high levels of mercury, gotten, so he says, from ...

... sushi.

We don't even want to talk about those nasty retro-viruses ...

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm sure Steve means that sushi was healthy until human industrialization turned the oceans into a toxic sewer.

Steve Perry said...

Hey, I like sushi. First time I had it was at a science fiction convention. I was sitting across from Norman Spinrad. Hey, what's this green stuff? I asked. Avacado?

Yes, Norman said, it's avacado.

But you know what? He lied ...

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I'm concerned that Obama is inheriting problems-- especially the economy-- that are literally unsolvable.

As for food, I love sushi, but I don't think I have a single favorite food.

Angie said...

When I was eight or nine, my family went to a steak house to eat. My meal came and there was a small bowl of creamy white stuff on the plate. I thought it was vanilla pudding (hey, there are restaurants that include dessert automatically) and took a big spoonful.

Even now, at forty-five, I'm not at all fond of spicy food. Even the "mild" sauce at a Taco Bell is too spicy for me, just to give you some sense of scale for judging what a whole mouthful of horseradish tasted to me when I was still in single-digits. [wry smile]


Michelle said...

Can I tell you how much I love horseradish?

My grandmother is an excellent cook, she's just married to a man who won't eat anything unless it's extra crispy, and super dry.

This has lead to some interesting speculation cooking over the years. The family has learned that you eat the the pierogies, cabbage rolls and at least try the ham or turkey. After you risk your own life and limb in trying any of that holiday's experiments.

The first time my BF came to a holiday dinner, we forgot to tell him this unspoken rule. So he had a big helping of what became known as THE mayonnaise salad. Looks beautiful, tastes like you're licking the bottom of an old miracle whip jar.

We, as an entire family of about 40 people, don't eat mayonnaise. This part of the family is south eastern European...which means we eat kosher food...cooked in bacon. Recipes that call for mayonnaise contain vinegar in our family.

My poor BF took one taste of the salad...and he's a mayo fan, and nearly had to run to the bathroom.

I think by grandmother threw out the bowl it was in....

Christian H. said...

The problem with homosexuality is no one really wants to talk about it.

They make jokes, they cajole, they excuse but I don't think I've ever heard of an actual scientific discussion relating to all the facets of a homsexual relationship.

It scares the crap out of me. I've studied it long and hard and I have to come to the conclusion that it's a bad idea promoted by people who underestimate the effects of a bad diet. Especially during conception and pregnancy.

If you ever want to have a frank and honest discussion I'll be glad to.

Unknown said...

Sushi's great; I especially like salmon and eel.

Food story: My husband and I were in Belgrade, Serbia (visiting peace groups there during the war in 1992). We went to a small Serbian restaurant; I tried making out the menu using my rusty high school Spanish. I found a word I recognized - chicken - so we ordered that. The waiter asked, "Are you sure?" Turned out it was chicken liver (which I suppose the waiter considered an unlikely choice for Americans).

@Christian M. Howell: You totally lost me on homosexuality; I am unable to figure out its relevance to the diet of pregnant women.

Christian H. said...

Well, Lynn if you want to have a frank discussion about it I'm willing. Come to my blog. It's linked.

But I forgot to say I haven't had Sushi and probably won't. I don't experiment with food. I eat steak and potatoes.

Everybody says, wow, Sushi is great. I say knock yourself out.

A funny food story... hmmm...

I know. I did try Foie Gras ONCE. It tastes like steak fat. It was funny. My manager took me and the other negro male in our dept to a fancy Manhattan restaurant and he ordered Foie Gras as an appetizer.

I loved it, but when I found out how they make it I smiled and said "no thank you."

Anonymous said...

There's a chain of wing restaurants between PA and OH known as Quaker Steak and Lube. Their sauces have won numerous national awards over the years. The grandaddy sauce was known as the atomic; it came with a warning to wash your hands before using the restroom and a legal waiver in case ulcers and other medical issues arose after consuming tehm. My high school buddies and I all gave them a try in a show of dimwitted machismo. The very smell of these things made our nose hairs singe and our eyes burn. As the night progresses we notice that our one friend is turning red and looks terribly uncomfortable. Apparently he had neglected to wash before using the facilities and the acids were killing his bits and pieces. We laughed so hard we cried more than when we consumed those toxicly hot wings. Still one of the greatest wing places though...I miss it terribly after moving across the country

Anonymous said...

Food stories...too many to tell. Like so many others, I've also mistaken that lump of wasabi for mint ice cream.

Belut in Manila, did that. Live cricket on the banks of the Kern River, tickled on the way down. Fried haggis on the way to the Cowal Games, yup. Spam cakes at the Waikiki Spam Jam, oh, yeah.

Lobo said...

I learned a very important lesson about proving your manhood in New Orleans. Ten years ago a group of us went to Mardi Gras. One morning after beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde we went to the market to look around. We came to an alligator sausage stand and I figured what the hell and got me a piece. The guy at the counter asked if I wanted some hot sauce for it. In an effort to impress my friends and prove how tough I was, I asked for the hottest sauce they had.

You can imagine what happened next.

As an aside, if you visit New Orleans and don't go to Cafe du Monde on a Saturday morning for beignets and coffee, you did it wrong.

Unknown said...

Hey, Barnes,

when you do come to my house to visit (not trying to sound like a stalker but this will happen dude)... DON'T say sushi, my children will probably sell me into slavery to get it...

Unknown said...

oh my fav is pad thai... love that stuff especially with all kinds of peanuts

Steven Barnes said...

I assume that Christian is referring to theories of the biological origin of homosexuality. Personally, having seen such behavior in animals all my life, I don't doubt that there is a genetic component, as well as a behavioral one. Nor do I doubt that much of the social unease with gay behavior is residual memory of the time we needed every human being to pump out every baby possible just to keep us from extinction.
I've just never seen how anything that increases the net amount of love in the world (between consenting adults) is anything but a blessing.