Sticky Rice, Raw Fish, and Awkward Jean

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My second officially sanctioned adventure was to attend a cooking class. I chose a sushi course to take as opposed to a more traditional offering because, let’s face it — who wants to be the one to taste self-taught sushi??? See, I told you the brown hair is making me really smart!

After searching online I signed up for a class at the Culinary Center of Kansas City (which is actually located in Overland Park, but whatevs). The class was scheduled from 6:30-9pm on a Monday night — Challenge #1. It was also the Monday following the turning back of the clocks… and it getting uber-dark, uber-early — Challenge #2. For a hermit like me the combo of a Monday + Winter-Chill-Early-Dark = Home in Bed Reading! To be perfectly honest, I felt like a rockstar just walking through the door!

We had assigned seating and I pretty much got the best table. The other tables were full of your stereotypical suburban housewives out for an exotic girls’ night **Dear Lord Baby Jesus, PLEASE let me join their ranks some day, Amen**, but for a swingin’ single like myself I had WAY better cookmates. (Rawmates? Rollmates?) Not sure they felt the same way, especially after Awkward Jean took over, but… I really enjoyed them.

One couple, Ed & Jane, were recent empty-nesters who had been having adventures of their own. Now you see, Ed & Jane’s last child just went off to college and the first adventure they had Jane got to pick — a cake decorating class! (Or as Ed put it “SIX Monday nights in a row at the Joann’s…”) Suffice it to say the second adventure was of Ed’s choosing — sushi class. Ed was very excited because he loves sushi and was certain that if Jane just gave it a try she would love it too. Jane was not so certain, but… after dragging him to SIX cake decorating classes at the Joann’s, she really kind of owed it to him to try. (Though she privately told me that’s what business lunches were for — things like sushi. Um, okay.)

The other two people at our table were Cheryl and Diane (they were more of an ‘and’ than an ‘&’). Now, Diane had driven in from west of Manhattan, KS (about three hours away she was quick to let everyone know) and she and Cheryl were good friends seeking some adventures as well. This were their second class at the Culinary Center, the first being one called “Asian Flair”, and they loved it so much they decided to kick it up a notch with sushi since neither of them had tried it before. Well, correction… Diane, in her early-60s as opposed to Cheryl’s mid-50s, was a bit more experienced than Cheryl and had admitted to trying a California Roll once, but never the actual raw fish. But she was ready tonight.

(Personal Sidebar — I loved the adventurous spirit of all my tablemates, but um… seriously? You’re gonna try RAW FISH for the very first time and your thought is “I should do that in the middle of the Midwest after having prepared it myself!” Wow. Now THAT is impressively daring!)

So, the class was set up where we sat at our tables and watched the chef demonstrate, then we went to the back where there were counter-height work stations with all the prep work more or less done already (hashtag-awesome). I was pretty positive I would be amazing because I was taking really detailed notes during the demonstration — complete with diagrams… Unfortunately, it turns out I missed some very important instruction during my rather focused note-taking…

First off. I can’t roll. Like at all. As in, oh-dear-god-what is that thing? I guess I didn’t pay as much attention on that part as I thought. And on top of that, the sticky rice is SO STICKY! I mean, it was on my face, in my hair, on my left elbow (which frankly was no where near any rice)… I had rice EVERYWHERE! Thank goodness there was a big bowl of water on the counter for us to wash off in! But, I was the only one who kept dunking my arms in and rubbing off rice… how were they not getting sticky rice EVERYWHERE? I was clearly at a table full of wizards.

Round two — We snack on our freshly prepared sushi while the chef shows us another technique. This time I bypassed the note-taking in order to pay better attention. F.M.L. This is when I learned a very key lesson in sushi making — That wasn’t a dunk bowl for cleansing. It was a dip bowl to lightly dip our fingers in before touching the sticky rice each time. It was a blend of rice vinegar, sugar and water and used as an ingredient as well as to keep the rice from sticking to our fingers (our faces, hair, elbows, etc.). It was for BEFORE handling the rice, not AFTER. Like I was doing. With my whole arm. As a wash bowl. Great, 30 minutes in and I’ was already “That Girl”.

Other than that highly awkward situation the night went pretty well. Jane didn’t love sushi, but she didn’t hate it. Cheryl and Diane liked the tempura versions and Ed and I were like damn Hoover vacuums swooping in behind everyone grubbing down on what was turning into “All-You-Can-Eat” night at the self-made sushi buffet. The best part was after we learned our different kinds (sticky rice on the inside, sticky rice on the outside, tempura fried, hand roll and sashimi) we were allowed to use whatever was left at our tables to practice on and take home with us. Ed and I went to town! I clearly needed practice with my light dip and tight roll procedures and Ed was basically just trying to get as much sushi as humanly possible to make up for his SIX nights decorating cakes at the Joann’s. When everything was said and done, it was a very fun and successful evening.

The next day I brought my leftover sushi in to the office for CRUSH to try. Chef said we could eat our leftovers for a midnight snack, breakfast or lunch… but not to wait any later than lunch, oddly enough it wasn’t because of the fish — she said the nori (seaweed paper stuff) would begin to go stale and the rice would un-stick. Anyway, I have to give CRUSH credit that he willingly tried a few pieces… even though it was loosely rolled, falling apart and filled with random leftover tidbits that weren’t exactly what one might call delicious… But, he tried it. That was sweet. (Sucker — Turns out I’m an AWFUL sushi chef!)

Would I do it again? In a second. I can HIGHLY recommend taking a sushi class — go with some friends, go alone, just go for it. It was the best $60 I’ve spent in a while. Oh, and I got a free glass of wine with the meal, so there is that.

XOXO — Awkward (Sticky) Jean

Words of Wisdom from the Night: “You live in the Midwest. There is no such thing as fresh sushi-grade fish. Buy frozen. Trust me.” — Chef Can’t-Remember-Her-Name

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