Friday, August 25, 2006
Murder by Wasabi
We hadn’t been married a year before Alice tried to poison me. Alice’s favorite food is sushi, and one evening she made sushi at home for us. When you’re not a highly trained and experienced Japanese sushi cook, sushi is very time consuming to prepare. So time consuming that it was an hour past our normal (late) dinnertime, and Alice was still preparing sushi. She had made enough for one person, as long as that person was very small with a tiny appetite. At the same time, we had prepared to eat our sushi dinner in the family room, because it was Monday Night Football, which I never willingly missed. Realizing she still needed more time to prepare enough sushi for two, Alice told me to begin without her. I dutifully sat down in front of the TV and cleaned my plate, although after a few bites the thought did enter my head that I hoped from now on we would go out for sushi.
Quite a while after I finished, Alice sat down to her dinner. She took one bite and spit it out. “This is awful!” she shouted. “How could you eat this stuff?”
I admitted that I thought it tasted bad, particularly the wasabi, which didn’t look right after I mixed it with soy sauce.
“Oh my God!” Alice exclaimed, “The wasabi was old, I don’t think I kept it refrigerated, and it will make you really sick! I can’t believe you could eat it without throwing up.”
Actually, I wasn’t surprised. Pop had taught me that, no matter what, you always eat what the cook prepares, then compliment the cook. No matter what.
Pop’s training came in handy many times. As I traveled in strange lands, and ate strange foods in strange places, I never failed to eat hearty, and the food never made me sick. This gave me a real advantage over many of my fellow Yanks. Some of them got sick just looking at the food, which meant a bigger share for me. “How can you eat that stuff?” they asked weakly, as I wolfed down my share and theirs too.
“Tastes OK to me,” I’d say, and take another bite as they turned their faces away.
“Oh Honey,” cried Alice, “I’m afraid I’ve poisoned you.”
Perhaps she had poisoned me, but I felt fine. By then Monday Night Football was over. In those days I had to wake up at 5 AM to get to work on time at Lockheed in Sunnyvale, 45 miles from Livermore over commuter-clogged freeways, so I excused myself to go to sleep. Alice was afraid that if I went to sleep, I wouldn’t wake up. At first she wanted to keep me awake, but as always, I fell asleep when my head hit the pillow.
Alice watched me sleep for awhile, and then started to doze off herself. As time passed she became more worried that I would die in my sleep, so she finally called the Emergency Desk at Kaiser Permanente. Alice explained to the Emergency Nurse that I had eaten my whole meal before she ate a bite, and that the wasabi was so bad she had to spit it out.
“What should I do?” Alice asked. “Should I take my husband to the hospital? Is there some medicine he could take? Should he try to vomit it up before it poisons him?”
The nurse tried to calm Alice, and told her that all she needed to do was observe me and see if I had stomach distress, such as cramps or nausea. She assured Alice that, if the wasabi made me sick, I would wake up and vomit, not die in my sleep.
Alice thanked the nurse for her patience and reassurance, and hung up the phone.
Then she stayed awake most of the night watching me sleep peacefully.