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Miso Queasy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I began to gag as something slid down my throat; it was long (I had assumed it was a noodle) and had nodules on it, like the tentacle of a squid or octopus, which I had come to expect in Japanese dishes. I covered my mouth and coughed a couple of times, thinking, Don’t throw up. Drink some tea.

Dustin patted my back. “Make sure to breathe before inhaling that soup. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Something slimy just escaped from my plate into my stomach.” He laughed and I gulped down some tea. I put the lid back on my miso soup, determined not to drink anymore. I sighed and glanced at my tray, trying to decide what to attempt next. The sad little fish looked up at me with wide eyes that seemed to say: “Tabemasen onegai shimasu!” (Please don’t eat me, squeamish American girl!) I ate some golden cabbage and moved on to the coral-colored I-don’t-know-what, which could have been anemone entrails for all I knew.

A tiny Japanese woman shuffled over to my tray and flipped the fish on its grilling plate (I was thankful because he had begun to win our staring contest). She then took my left hand, holding my chopsticks, and lead me to the wasabi. I shook my head, thinking, Please don’t make me put it on anything! The tips grazed the deadly horseradish, then she mixed them around in my dish of soy sauce and motioned to the sashimi. I clenched my jaw and picked up a piece of raw tuna. The woman watched me dunk it in the wasabi concoction and lift it to my mouth, smiling pleasantly all the while. I took a dainty bite and chewed, tasting how just a little bit of the green goo and the salty sauce brought out the flavor of the fish. I smiled back at her, not really knowing what to say, and she moved on to act as the kaishaku for Dustin’s fish.

I finished the tuna and ate a little more of the sashimi before attempting to de-spine the sizzling fish on my tray. I moved him, by the tail, off the grill, grabbed his spine between my chopsticks, and pulled, yanking all the fragile bones from his body. Only small chunks of meat were left, but I ate them, mostly because it was actually cooked and hot as ­opposed to the cold, stringy muscles of other sea creatures that I had ingested.

The custard I left untouched, since I can’t even eat Jell-O, let alone this firm, pudding-like substance in a miniature porcelain cup. I poked it and decided it wasn’t worth it if I tossed my cookies later.

I looked down and noticed that I had consumed and conquered the challenge that was my traditional Japanese dinner. I felt pride as I realized that I had tried just about every slimy, not-quite-dead “delicacy” that Japan had so enticingly presented. I finished my tea and rewarded myself with a bowl of plain, ­delicious rice.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Zachary W. said...
Feb. 25, 2009 at 3:18 am:
I enjoyed this story! It was funny, and I like how you stuck it out. I wish I could go to Japan.

But I LOVE Japanese food, Miso Soup and seaweed are delicious!
Good job, I liked it.
 
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Emily Petit said...
Feb. 8, 2009 at 7:47 pm:
This is refreshing and hilarious! Kudos to you for trying things that some Americans wouldn't dare sample.
 
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