You’d think it would be pretty difficult to gross out a bunch of people who have no qualms about eating fish with their heads still attached and squid so raw it’s still moving.
But I have discovered the one food that makes Japanese people recoil in horror. Yes, I’m talking about that most repulsive food of all -- raw carrot sticks.
The first time I brought raw carrot sticks to work it sent shock waves through the staff room. You would have thought I was biting the heads off bats.
“What are you eating?” asked one of the teachers, her eyes wide with disbelief.
“Um . . . carrots,” I said.
My explanation only confused her more.
She wanted to know if they were boiled. I told her they were raw. She wanted to know if I thought they were delicious. I told her they weren’t particularly delicious. She wanted to know why I was eating them if they weren’t delicious. I told her they were healthy so I enjoyed eating them. She wanted to know if everyone in Canada ate carrot sticks. I told her lots of people in Canada ate carrot sticks. She wanted to know if I was joking. I told her I wasn’t.
I noticed some of the other teachers were eavesdropping on our conversation so I held up my little container of carrot sticks and asked if anyone wanted to try one.
There was a collective gasp and some nervous laughter before they started backing away, wildly waving their hands in front of their faces and shaking their heads. In a country where raw horse meat is considered a delicacy, not one of them was brave enough to try a carrot stick.
I continued to bring in carrot sticks a few times a week and they continued to point and laugh. It took about a month for the novelty to wear off. After two months, one of the teachers worked up the courage to try one.
He took a bite, chewed and swallowed. He took another bite, chewed and swallowed. The poor guy looked like he was trying not to gag. He had an expression on his face that seemed to suggest he was eating pig rectum or blended rats.
He somehow managed to choke down the whole thing. I asked him what he thought.
“It was delicious,” he said. “Thank you.”
If the teachers at my school thought carrot sticks were disgusting, I can’t wait to see their reaction when I bring poutine to work.