6 11 2009

Natto, something no foreigner can stand. Natto, something that smells like puke. Natto, something Japanese people love, but no foreigner can get within ten feet of.

I have heard all of those things and more about natto, fermented soybeans. It has a reputation not just for being something that foreigners don’t like, but for something we can’t stand.

I’ve been asked several times if I liked natto or not by my students and various teachers. Every time it was an easy answer. I haven’t tried it, I don’t know if I do or not. Apparently, the teacher who is always giving me ideas for cooking got wind of this.

When she came over for dinner on Tuesday evening, she brought a small container of Natto for me to try. Maybe the fact that she was going to try something new that night (quesadillas) inspired her to think that I should try something new as well. Maybe she just knew I hadn’t tried this dish that so many foreigners hate with a passion. I don’t know.

So after very thankfully and nervously receiving this gift, I asked if I should eat with dinner. With the thought of do it now, get it over with and move on to the food I know I like and don’t have the taste of it left in my mouth. Her answer? No, save it for breakfast.

What I didn’t tell her was that I don’t do strange foods for breakfast. I’m an American breakfast food girl all the way. Japanese people seem to love rice and miso soup for breakfast, but I stick with yogurt or milk and cereal, eggs or oatmeal. I even went so far as to buy a couple of huge costco (yes, they have them in Japan) boxes of cereal to eat so that I wouldn’t be stuck with the ones I don’t like as much.

So I decided I would try it at dinnertime on Wednesday. But Wednesday night my stomach was doing weird things and I barely ate anything. Now, Friday, the natto has been sitting in my fridge for three days. Have I touched it? No. Why? I’m not even really sure. Evidently, it’s easy for me to be fearless when it comes to trying new foods when people are present. I just have to get over the small fear of “this doesn’t sound so good” and try it. Using this, I’ve discovered tons of things I didn’t think I’d like, but I do.

When there aren’t people around, it’s a whole different story. I can talk myself out of trying them and no one knows the difference. It’s why I no longer claim to be a picky eater. I will try anything you put in front of me. However, I will not make or order food in a restaurant that I don’t like a lot.

Today, I find myself alone in my house with this natto staring at me every time I open the fridge. I’m so tired I don’t really care to do be brave and try it (planning to go to bed as soon as I’m done with this). I have to try it at some point, because I’m sure I’ll be asked about it.

How long will it take me to just sit down and try the darn stuff? I think tomorrow will have to be the first (and possibly last) time I try natto. Who knows, maybe it’ll be one of those things I don’t expect to like and actually do.