I have always been a seafood fan. Long before the sashimi explosion in this country, I was indulging on quahogs on the half shell, compliments of my dad, who loved to get on his knees in the muddy shallows and paw for the little necks with his bare hands for hours at a time.
I loved when he went because I knew when he returned from his bivalve mollusk hunting trip it would be with a basket full of the tasty cookies from the sea.
He could morph those things into mouth-watering delectable dishes, including chowder and clam cakes. But after he scraped the mud out of his fingernails and before he turned up the heat on the quahogs, we would sit and Larry would shuck a couple of fist fulls and he, my brother and I would slurp those puppies down like candy. Millie enjoyed the chowder and clam cakes but drew the line at the slimy, salty tidbits.
Today, many eating establishments include little necks on the half, along with oysters. And many Asian-influenced restaurants (and even some supermarkets) offer sashimi of all sorts — eel, whitefish, salmon, tuna, octopus, scallops and sea urchin. Each of them cold, raw, briny and oh so good.
My all-time favorite sashimi is Ahi tuna. Along with little necks and oysters, I could spend the rest of my days wolfing these down with a nice cold iceberg lettuce salad with fresh tomatoes to keep things honest.
I’m starting to think, however, that my affinity for devouring these delectables is turning on me. Instead of enjoying the aquatic gifts from God, I’m becoming one of them.
The Chinese celebrate New Year’s in January or February of our calendar year, and each year an animal is honored. For our 2022 it’s the Year of the Tiger and January 2023 will begin the Year of the Rabbit.
But based on my track history for the past few years, I feel like I’m stuck in a time loop, ala Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.” And the year in which I am trapped is the Year of the Ahi.
By now I surely have you scratching your head wondering “Where is he going with this one? He’s taken some odd avenues to reach the crux of his column, but this one surely is Robert Frost-like, the road less taken.”
For the past several years it’s been a ritual of sorts to have to have a pre-cancerous or cancerous growth dug out of my body. (I implore you again, please put on sunscreen. I now do with a four-inch flat paintbrush and a lotion with an SPF of 5,000). As I sit here today to spill out this column, I have two one-inch slices in my abs from recent carvings. I look like an electric socket.
It’s to the point where Emilie calls my dermatologist a sashimi master, making me, in essence, a big old slab of Ahi tuna.
In a few weeks I will add to this plethora of small scars a somewhat larger one — on my neck. You see, after a few MRIs and a CAT scan it’s been determined that I have a disk in my cervical region that simply isn’t where it is supposed to be. It’s slipped back into the spinal nerves leaving me in a constant state of pain, or numbness or weakness, or, when I’m really lucky, all three at once.
So for the second time in nine years, I must have a disk fusion, which will leave a four-inch scar about a meter above the last dorsal sashimi slicing.
That should put me out of commission for a few weeks so I can heal up and be ready for the next sashimi session.
Now the slicing and dicing doesn’t really bother me, first because I can’t feel a thing when it’s done, although with the smaller ones I am awake and it still creeps me out to watch him sew me shut. The neck sashimi sessions are done when I’m in that place where they send me after someone I can’t even see has me count backward from 10 and the furthest I can get is eight.
I guess I got used to this by slicing myself up while cooking — more than I should. But I feel if you ain’t cutting yourself, you ain’t cooking, yourself.
I long for the days when the only times I got sewed up was from an ice hockey wound or reaching into a case of juice while working at a supermarket and encountering a broken bottle.
When I told my children about the upcoming surgery, I said my body looks like a road map. Emilie responded with, “The road less taken.” I said, “No, more like the Southeast Expressway.”
Well, right now I’m just waiting on a date and time for my neurologist to shuffle my disk cards back into place. Meanwhile, I’ll carry on, continue to work, to do limited chores and to cook. I’ll be more careful in the kitchen now, opting to burn myself instead of chopping myself.
If you have a chance, just shoot a quick prayer up to the Master (not the sashimi master) for me, as the Year of the Ahi swims on.