Food for Thought
When pigs fly: Convincing dad to eat sushi & finding pizza with pizzazz
Are there some things you won’t eat?
I don’t mean things you know you shouldn’t eat because they’ll make you fat or you’re allergic to them and they’ll make you break out in hives, or things you choose not to eat for some ethical reasons, but things — food things — that you just can’t stomach. Things that make you gag.
Take octopus for instance. Can’t eat it, makes me choke.
And there’s stringy cheese. I can’t abide the stuff. I love hard cheese and liquid-y cheese (show me a Texan who doesn’t like chili con queso and I’ll show you a person who cannot be trusted). But that yellow stuff on fast-food pizza that feels like you’re chewing rubber? No. Thank you.
Whose idea was it to put that crap on there anyway? Real pizza should be fresh ingredients you can taste, preferably on thin crust slightly burned on the edges. You want cheese? Sprinkle a little ricotta or mozzarella around.
Personally, when the mood strikes, I often wind up at La Griglia eating all the pizza bread slices out of the breadbasket. Come on, you know you do it, too.
And I’m a fan of Caffe Bello’s pizzettas. They’re just the right size, texture and taste. The Italian sausage is a spicy favorite and the specials can be divine. We once had a chicken Caesar salad pizzetta that was heaven on crust.
And now there’s Piola, the new Midtown hot spot. While hardly a fan of franchises, this place is cloned from the original in Italy and features a real Italian wood-burning oven that spits out perfect pizzas like a Pez clicking out candy.
I had lunch there recently and the place was packed. Legal eagle Rusty Hardin was holding court on the patio and inside the funky Murano colored eatery, everyone from ladies who lunch to tattooed Goths were munching pizzas and gnocchi.
I do like me some prosciutto on my pie but here I fell in love with the Mantova (named for an Italian city) that was piled high with carpaccio. Raw beef heaven. And no stringy, yellow cheese in sight.
So I’m thinking things we won’t eat have more to do with texture than taste.
But then there are some people who won’t eat things for reasons not even known to them.
A recent phone call with my sister went something like this:
She: “You got dad to eat sushi! I can’t even get him to eat grilled fish!”
“Me: “I know, I know. I mean it was just rolls, not sashimi, but still.”
That’s right folks; my octogenarian father ate sushi rolls. I swear I saw pigs flying outside RA Sushi that day.
Readers know that since dad moved here this fall we’ve been on a burger and Tex-Mex diet. Even though he’s spent the last 20 years in Florida, the only seafood I have been able to get him to eat are the mesquite-grilled shrimp at Goode Co. Seafood.
So it went down like this: I was doing a tasting of RA’s new menu items and causally asked dad to come along. He showed up on time at my door but he knew something was up.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“Oh, just a restaurant down the street, it’s not far.”
“What kind of food do they have?” he asked suspiciously.
“Don’t worry, let’s just go.”
“It’s not raw food, is it? I won’t eat that.”
Without further conversation I drove us over, but when we got out of the car and he saw the RA Sushi sign he repeated his mantra: “I won’t eat raw food, I don’t like sushi.”
Which is pretty much what he said to our dining companion, the manager, the waiter and anyone else who would listen.
“No, no, a lot of Japanese food is cooked,” he was assured.
“I know what Japanese food is, I lived there after the war.”
Dear god, where was the waiter with our drinks?
“So what kind of food did you eat in Japan?” I asked hopefully.
“Whatever I wanted,” he grumbled. “I ran the club on base there.”
Things were not looking good, until, that is, the first course arrived. The Otoko salad was grilled chicken and steak, grilled read and green bell peppers, onions, asparagus, watercress and fried ramen noodles over a bed of mixed greens with yuzu dressing.
He ate every bite, including the greens. Which was interesting because salad is another thing he won’t eat.
He also proceeded to eat a side of shishito peppers sautéed in togarashi seasoning, an entire plate of lobster, mushrooms (another thing he said he wouldn’t eat) with garlic sugar snap peas and ice cream wrapped in sweet rice cake.
And somewhere in the middle of all that, he ate about half of the four sushi rolls. We didn’t tell him the Pacific Roll had some raw albacore tuna hidden among the jalapeños, rice and avocado. He ate half of it. He also picked the tempura shrimp off the RA chin’ Roll and even tried the vegetable tempura roll.
As we left he told everyone we would be back, declaring the meal excellent.
“I’m stuffed, that was great!” he enthused. “I’m more full than if we’d had burgers and fries.”
Of course, the next day we had nachos and beer.