Do you like sushi but hate the fact that it doesn’t leave your mouth tasting like invisible vomit? Do you enjoy Japanese cuisine best when it feels less like a meal and more like a David Cronenberg movie? Has anyone ever told you that you make great decisions, but you’d like to prove them otherwise?
Sushi from Ingles
I live in Asheville, NC, where there are a thousand Ingles. If you try to find the directions to one, Google Maps suddenly looks like it broke out in measles. There’s nothing exactly spectacular about it, except that you can sometimes rent movies from the store itself, ignoring the Redbox that’s usually about ten feet away. I’m not sure if they do great business with their movie rental venture though, as that seems like an operation that would only appeal to senior citizens that are afraid of the risky movie vending machine and the no one that is loyal to the Ingles brand.
Despite Ingles’ plan to launch their movie distribution operation into so-soness, I was undeterred in my decision to buy their sushi. At first. It was placed away from their sandwiches, and as much as I hate to admit it, I thought to myself Why would I walk over to the deli, where people are, talking people, when I could just get sushi here. I like sushi, right?
I chose the Philadelphia Roll, which is what everyone picks when they’re either A) new to sushi, B) are being pressured by friends to hurry up on choosing off the menu or C) me, always. I like the Philadelphia Roll, mainly because I know that my meal will be either average or deeply unsatisfying, and Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker, I’ll take those odds.
The first package I picked up leaked something onto my hand, a hand I immediately screamed at and cut off for fear of contamination. With my remaining hand I picked up the package, a plastic thing that hadn’t been sealed with tape or the label. If you’ve ever bought sushi before from a place that doesn’t specialize in sushi, you’ll usually find that you have to rip the label off in order to open it. This adds another useless barrier to your meal, but in our minds, it appeases our need to be safe from germs. When you tear the label, it means that you’re dipping into some quality stuff. This had no label. It’s the rough and tumble way to open sushi. It’s how cowboys and pirates started to eat their sushi, and there’s no way that I was going to wimp out on eating something that I was dedicated enough to walk into a grocery store and buy.
The first bite of sushi is pretty revealing about what the entire thing will taste like, and the first thing I noticed was the variety of flavors it held, and I mean that in the worst way. Usually, good sushi kind of blends its ingredients together, but this felt like I was biting into a mix of foods that had just been clumsily Frankensteined together for the sake of my lack of self control. I could notice the cream cheese, separate from the “crab” meat, separate from the cucumber. It was the equivalent of lazy person rolling up a sleeping bag. Nothing had really come together. I could have lined a paper plate with avocado, placed the contents of the sushi roll center haphazardly in the middle of it and eaten each one, one at a time, and it would’ve been as close to a sushi experience as the contents of this poor package were to food.
Also, it was warm, which always begs the question “Should it be?” In the case of sushi, the answer is rarely yes. Years of jokes about vomiting unexpectedly and actually vomiting unexpectedly have taught me that if something tastes even slightly off, I’m going to hurl it all over the floor. This was a more subtle type of throwing up. Instead of doing it with bile and half-digested food, my brain did it with mental signals, all aimed at my psyche. You idiot. You idiot. You’ve done it now. You’re a moron. Why can’t you just be normal?
Is life a game to you?
I did all of my eating with my hands, a fact I’m not sure that I should be proud of. Part of me is glad that I didn’t waste a fork and the other part of me wonders what I looked like in front of my roommate, eating my Ingles sushi with my bare fingers and grimacing at it, like it was a cat that had just decided to die in my lap. Oh yeah, no table needed for this shooting star of humanity. It was eaten with the package in my lap. It doesn’t really add a lot to the dining experience, but at least it was a nice way to tell myself that I’m barely redeemable as a human.
At the half way point, my stomach still hadn’t staged mutiny so I decided to continue. There was soy sauce and ginger for me to add to it, but considering how the sushi was, the ginger was probably a pile of wet pink confetti and the soy sauce was probably just older soy sauce.
I’m of the “go big or go home” mentality, so when I buy warm sushi at a grocery store, I’m not just gonna stop with one left. Sure, I laid the tray beside me on a pillow and studied it for a while, judging it and myself with the same scrutiny, but I was not going to let it beat me. I’d had far worse food than this, with names that usually combined the words “this other sushi” and “this place in Tennessee.” So I gritted through my own survival instinct and ate the last one. My stomach never reached that terminal point of deciding that the import didn’t pass inspection, but perhaps it’s better that it didn’t. Ingles sushi, you made me a better, stronger person.
For that, I thank you.
Philadelphia Roll, Ingles, $5.95
Rating: Five stars out of Oh, Christ
Update 4/19/13: The next day, my body revolted. I can’t describe it as anything but my stomach having a hangover. I was John Hurt in Alien, if John Hurt had been eating sushi when the monster burst from his chest and the monster was actually just more sushi.
However, I’ve done enough tours of duty with vending machine mini-pizzas to develop a stomach that can withstand all kinds of poorly concocted exotic delicacies and shrapnel, so the feeling subsided after a little while. I am the triumph of the human spirit personified.
And this is my message of hope.