U is for Urchins, Not the Kid Kind
One of the
hazards experiences of travel, is the serendipitous connection you make with food.
When I lived in Alaska and was principal at North Star Elementary School in Nikiski, our school developed a sister school relationship with a school in Toyoura-cho, Hokkaido, Japan. After several years of sending giant poster letters, student artwork, and photos back and forth between the two schools, Toyoura Elementary School officially invited me to visit.
I had a wonderful time on the trip. I stayed with a host family, ate Japanese food, visited classrooms in this wonderful school, learned some Japanese words, tried my hand at ink painting, dressed in a kimono, made sesame rice balls and seaweed-wrapped sushi, and in general experienced everyday life in a small Japanese town.
One special event for the week was participating in Toyoura’s annual picnic in the park. This event, much like our holiday events, had food and crafts tents set up all around the perimeter of the park. I recognized a lot of the food, but some of it
bewildered me I had never seen before.
As the official representative of North Star Elementary and honored guest, I was offered a Japanese delicacy: a spiny sea urchin.
What do you do when you are surrounded by hundreds of Japanese friends, and you are offered one of their favorite delicacies? Ummmmm. Someone handed me a pair of hashi (Japanese chopsticks) and showed me how to eat an urchin. Just dip your hashi into the center and pull out a tasty bite. Of course, the tasty bite is sea urchin ovaries, but no matter.
After a little hemming and hawing, I pulled a bit of the orangish sea urchin out of its shell and ate it. I honestly can’t remember what it tasted like; I just tried to swallow it as fast as I could.
Fortunately, there were only a few bits of urchin in the spiny shell, so I didn’t have to eat much. And I politely refused any additional sea urchins, magnanimously offering to share them with my travel mate.
Of course, I have traveled to many other countries after that trip and have tried other
weird unusual foods, but that sea urchin lives in my memory as a stomach-churning tasty delicacy.
What is the weirdest food you have eaten?