Friday, 19 November 2010

Sweetness and Light

Don’t try and deny it: every girl likes sweet, pretty things in sweet, pretty boxes - especially if it involves macaroons. And yeah, I adore those darn delicious little confections too, mainly because you can get away with calling them ridiculous colours like ‘iced mint’ and ‘petal pink’ and oh I don’t know, ‘Bird's custard yellow’, which is a wonderfully indulgent exercise for any writer.


But what’s even better than sweet and pretty? SAVOURY and pretty! Nothing is more pleasing than eating something visually delightful that isn’t dessert. There’s none of that predictable sugariness you get with cakey creations where they taste exactly like what they look like, all pastel and perfect. With savoury, a plate of prettiness is balanced by unexpected, opposing flavours that are far more satisfying than a syrupy end. So I'd take a box of Gion sushi over macaroons any day of the week. 

Let me explain.

In Tokyo, the sushi is BIG: fat rolls of nigiri are served with surprise smears of wasabi hidden between the tongues of fish and just-warm rice. They are of course amazing, but unless you can master the native trick of biting them in half without the whole turning into a ricey rubble then the only way to eat them is all in one, down the hatch and hope for the best. So you stuff your face with this sushi and feel really, really greedy but also really, really happy because it is all so DELICIOUS. But by gahd, it’s so not pretty. 

In Kyoto however, sushi is an altogether more elegant affair. In order for geisha to remain the most delicate and lovely creatures ever created (god help them), sushi evolved in the geisha district of Gion to perfectly fit their tiny, painted mouths. Here you are presented with a wooden box, inside of which you discover 12 beautiful, bite-sized pieces of temari sushi, where soft slices of pearlescent bream and crimson tuna have been wrapped around little spheres of rice. Pop one in your mouth like an infinitely more wonderful Lindor truffle and you can relish it without the rice making a run for it down your chin. The fresh, fleshy fish and pretty-as-a-patisserie presentation come together perfectly as one, yin and yang. Bliss.

Temari sushi in Gion: they probably don't do takeout
So beat that, bonbons and biscuits and cupcakes and cookies. Go suck on some sushi instead.

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