Wasabi – fun for kids of all ages

16 01 2008

I love wasabi. Not for me, though, the stuff is pretty evil. I like turning on my friends to sushi and telling them to eat a small glob of the green stuff. “Its just a condiment,” I lie. “It goes well with the California Roll,” I lie again. Then, I sit back and enjoy the entertainment. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you don’t know what you are missing. Stop reading immediately and go try some wasabi. Then come back and finish reading.

Hey, I told you to stop reading. Allright, go ahead.

Wasabi is known as the Japanese horseradish and its spice is more akin to hot mustard than to the capsaicin of hot peppers. Its difficult to find in its root form (real wasabi), but more readily available in its ready to use form which comes as a paste made from grinding the root to a powder and mixing with horseradish, mustard and food coloring.

Typically, wasabi is eaten with sushi or sashimi. I’m not very familiar with any other uses other than for sheer torture. The flavor of wasabi produces an intense, eye-watering burn on the tongue and nasal passages that is quite fearsome. The first time I tried this I did not know what to expect. The heat came on instantly, searing my tongue and consuming my nasal passages to where I couldn’t even breath. My eyes teared up and it reminded me of when I sprayed myself with pepper spray (yeah, that sucked). The pain was so intense that I panicked, praying that I didn’t do any permanent damage to my esophagus and stomach.

And then, all of a sudden, it completely disappeared. Not a single trace of the burn could be felt on my palate. I totally thought I just hallucinated (darn those 80’s – just kidding). But really, the intense panic and fear I had just felt was completely gone, leaving me completely confused. “What the heck just happened here? Was that for real?” That was one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever gone through.

So, I tried it on my kids (like my friend, Cindy, I am also up for Parent of the Year award). They were a little reluctant at first, knowing that their dad is not always forthcoming about things. But, mom encouraged them to give it a try as well. My five year old freaked out. She cried and jumped around and scrambled for water (which makes it worse, by the way). It took a little bit to get her to calm down and get her to realize that the pain was gone. She stopped crying and had this “oh, yeah” kind of look on her face and then hugged mom.

My nine year old son was next. He was ready for it. He knew what was coming and was ramping up for it, but the spice was just too much. His eyes teared up, he jumped up and down, he screamed uncontrollably, and almost spilled his cup of water trying to douse the flames. Then, in an instant, it was all gone. “Yea!” Shouts of jubilation at his accomplishment.

Next, my seven year old girl. She’s tough and determined. She put the dollop of wasabi paste on her tongue and smeared it around on her cheeks and gums and palate. Her eyes got a little misty and she braced for the impact. She took it like a champ, her face disguising the anguish and barely allowing us to notice her discomfort. About ten seconds later she says: “That wasn’t too bad – can I have a drink of water now?” Fear Factor material right here people.

Then it was my turn. My wife loaded up a hefty wad on a spoon for me. I had just tortured my children and it was time for me to pay. I really didn’t want to, but it was only fair. I also smeared it all around the inside of my mouth like I was using mouthwash and suffered through an intense 10 seconds or so without being able to breath. It was fun.

I have yet to give some to my dogs – hmm.

You know, they say that a family that plays together stays together. Good times at the family dinner table.




One response

17 01 2008

You know, I never thought about it but…you’re right. The burning feeling in your mouth totally disappears after about ten seconds. Maybe that’s why I like wasabi though. Every time I eat it (and I’m the kind that eats it in big dollops), I feel like my mouth has been refreshed, almost like a pan that’s been deglazed. Man. Is that the most random analogy, or what?

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