Sunday, January 27, 2008


Sandy Szwarc, over at Junkfood Science, posted Fishy sushi scares on Friday. In it she discusses the latest fear-du-jour, the "study" by the New York Times on the mercury levels in fish. In a scenario that will surprise no one who reads Sandy's breath of fresh air blog, the story that was published by the Times bears little resemblance to the actual meaning of the results.
In fact, there has never been a case of an American eating so much fish as to be harmful. The only cases in the scientific literature of mercury poisoning from fish and subsequent neurological problems — a fact confirmed by Dr. Thomas Clarkson, a toxicologist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine — were the result of an industrial mercury spill in Minamata Bay, Japan in the 1950s, which resulted in fish with methylmercury levels 40 to 1,000 times higher than the fish Americans, and most people around the globe, eat. These tragic poisonings first pointed out that at extremely high exposures, mercury was a neurotoxin and might affect the developing fetus.

In other words, we don't have to be afraid of eating fish. Glad to hear it. Living in Southeast Alaska, where the regional cuisine is fresh from the sea, I not only enjoy eating salmon, halibut, and crabs of all types, but friends make their living by fishing. I would hate to have to worry the next time I get the urge for Dungeness almost as much as I would hate my friends to have to go out of business. Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. The reward for risking your life on a continual basis shouldn't be that some study is incorrectly reported so that people are afraid of what you take those chances to bring to their tables.

In her post, Sandy provided a link to Sushi Etiquette
When you eat by your fingers, pick up a piece of nigiri at the both side with your two fingers, thumb and middle, and simultaneously lift up the far side top to this side by the index finger, and turn it upside down. Then dip the fish side to soy sauce, and next, twist your wrist to turn the fish side up and face to you. Alternatively do as the same way as by chopsticks. To eat, bring the nigiri to your mouth, throw it into your mouth in a way that the fish side touches on your tongue, and this is a recommendable direction in nigiri-eating.
Notice that one is recommended to throw the entire piece of sushi into one's mouth. This is where I have a problem. I don't have a very big mouth. I seek out dentists with small hands. And I have always bitten the sushi in half. Now I discover this is rude.

What to do, what to do. Shall I continue to be rude? Shall I fill my mouth to my eardrums when I eat sushi in a mannerly manner? Should I explain to the waiter that I'm not being rude on purpose and I'm not ignorant, I just can't eat the thing whole? Will it taste as good if my mouth is so full my taste buds are shoved down? I was better off before I knew this little tidbit. When I thought that the only reason the other people in the restaurant were eating their sushi in one bite because they had bigger mouths.

Sushi pictograph and photo, courtesy Sushi Encyclopedism. Crab

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