Thursday, January 19, 2006

An Eye for IQ

Instead of Aiko’s regular Tuesday night private lesson at my apartment, we took a field trip to a neighborhood sushi restaurant. It’s always packed. The salaryman next to me was watching live soccer on his phone.

The place is known for its swimmingly fresh and stunningly cheap seafood. Aiko did all of the ordering, and I did most of the eating – tuna, octopus and squid sashimi and conger eel tempura. The fish was so fresh that for once I didn’t gag at the normally briny stench of sea urchin when it hit my tongue. I nibbled at shredded radish garnishing the sashimi plates.

Just when I didn’t think I had room for any more, soup arrived. Aiko described it as ara shiru, a clear broth with fish bone, head and meat. I cupped my hands around the warm bowl and raised it to my lips. Clean and refreshing.

All that remained was an unidentifiable chunk. Aiko’s bowl was empty. I looked into mine. The meat looked back at me. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had an epiphany like when your brain unscrambles a Magic Eye optical illusion. From the bottom of my bowl stared a fish eye. Strands of meat clung to the socket, but there was no mistaking the opaque bubble in the middle.

“Are you supposed to eat this?” I cried as quietly as possible.
“Yes, it’s delicious,” Aiko said.
I poked the eye in the eye with a chopstick.
“It’s hard! It’s an eye!”

I can’t remember the last time I got squeamish over food, but the cold look of the eye was jarring. I wanted the waitress to clear my plate, yet out of curiosity I kept poking it as a warm up for the inevitable.

The grey-haired waitress detected my indecision, and told Aiko that boiled sakana no me (fish eye) was good for the skin and intelligence. An eye for IQ.

“Maybe it’s best if you eat it with another food,” Aiko suggested. “Like tofu, if you are scared.” I was scared, but intrigued. Curiosity won, but my taste buds had the final say. My nostrils flared. It was crunchy like plastic. Was it the cornea? Sweet gelatin oozed onto my tongue.

I wanted it out of my mouth and fast, but only had a moist washcloth for a napkin. I pursed my lips, and breathed heavily through my nose. The shredded eyeball sloshed around in my mouth. Teeth cracked on a pachinko ball. Is this what they mean by eyeball? My throat closed. There was nowhere for it to go but back out. I raised the bowl and spat.

Aiko had been watching my contorted facial expressions, which now eased with relief. A swig of beer neutralized the aftertaste. Check, please.

1 comment:

rambo said...

You ever again posting on something besides fish heads?