09 May 2008

California Maki

California Maki (with title)
This is my entry to the 9th edition of The Blog Rounds, hosted by Pinay MegaMom.

I transferred schools in between elementary and high school. Words can't even begin to express the sheer terror I experienced at the thought of being a new student in a prestigious private school, not to mention being almost one or two years younger than the rest of the class, most of whom have known each other for years. I was eleven then, and if you think I'm a dork now, just imagine what it must have been like for me at the cusp of puberty. Yeaahh... It's not a pretty sight. (To paint a picture: me, shorter, with bushy hair, giant eyeglasses, twiggier, and smelling of biscuits.)

It's not just about appearances, either: for some reason, there'd been a disjunction between school curricula, so Math class was talking about Venn diagrams as if they were picking up where they left off. I've never even heard of one. I remember one question on the first ever quiz: "Why is it important to learn about _____?" My answer? "Because it's included in the test?" Was my mom ever furious when she saw the corrected quiz with red marks all over. My Math teacher wrote: "No. Sorry!" (This was 14 years ago! Talk about traumatic!)

It's not just about the academics, either: my classmates' personalities were so big, some frightening, that I could feel myself just fading away. I don't think there was anything particularly interesting about myself. I deferred to their louder voices and larger presences. I was nothing like them. I wouldn't even know where to start. What have I done? What am I even doing here?!

I received a note asking me to see the guidance counselor. Fuck. Why don't I just pierce my tongue and get it over with? (This is retconning-- I didn't swear as a child and I certainly didn't know anything about self-mutilation. But the essence was the same.) I thought, wow. I've officially become a problem to someone else. I entered the room and it was Bro. James P. Dunne, a Jesuit brother who'd been a part of the school for probably decades by then, but could never shake his Irish-American-ness. He suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, and as a result had to walk with a cane. He'd become bloated, his face slightly molten, his smile, wide and insane-looking.

He told me to relax, and handed me a piece of paper written by my Science teacher. It said:

  • Always forgetful
  • Keeps giving excuses
Asshole, I thought. (More retconning from me.) Of course, I could have given more excuses on why my heart didn't seem to be into putting any effort, but I was so tired. I was just quiet. He gave me another piece of paper. It just had a number scrawled on it.

"Do you know what that number is?"
"No, what does it mean?" I asked back.
"That's your ranking on the entrance exam," he answered. Honestly, it could have been any number from 1 to 500, and his message to me would be the same. I have the potential to become anything I want, if I had the will to do so. But more importantly, it showed me that no one should make you feel undeserving of your place in the world. You deserve to occupy the space that you're in.

I didn't magically become cooler after that. I was still dorky old me. I was still lonely, but time after time, I'd talk to Bro. Dunne after class about music (he loved Jazz- of course-- sorry I didn't take to "Ain't Misbehavin'", though), my fears, my dreams, my hopes for the future. He even encouraged my painting by asking me to do a few works (sadly, they're all gone now). Every day, I would sit beside him at mass, helping him to stand from the pew, and when the time for the greeting of peace came, he'd always give me a hug. Even if I always struggled with being accepted by my class, he always made me feel that just being me was okay in his book.

Anyway, he died four years ago, while I was in medical school. In his last years when his debilitation got worse, he got what he always told me he dreamed of-- a motorized cart! I heard he had a lot of fun on it. I think he'd have been really proud on how resilient I turned out to be. I found my place in the world.

What does California Maki have to do with any of this? He always used to make me laugh when he vehemently claimed that the school cafeteria could actually whip up decent sushi. I would become visibly grossed out by the prospect of being served sashimi by the same place that prepares ____ in brown sauce day after day after day. But he absolutely swore by it. I never took him up on his dare.

California Maki
I've found out that California Maki refers to any roll with avocado in it. But here in the Philippines, it has always been known as a false crab and mango roll. I'm not sure what led to the substitution of buttery avocado for sweet mango, but I think it has something to do with mangoes being absolutely awesome. Anyway, I put too much rice on it, so it's a little fatter than I would have liked and the rice:main ingredient ratio is really bad. Anyway, it's my absolutely first roll. I'm sure I'll do much better next time.

Edit: I made them again and this time I fixed the quantities. Yay!

For each nori sheet, which makes 8 rolls:
  • 160g (3/4 cup) cooked sushi rice

  • 2 full-length imitation crabsticks (about 9 inches long)

  • few 1/4" slivers of mango

  • few 1/4" sticks of cucumber (I wasn't able to put this in as I'm a lazy shopper)

  • 2 teaspoons flying fish or shrimp roe (tobiko or ebiko) (I wasn't able to put this in as they were out of stock)

  • kewpie mayonnaise

On the sushi mat, place the nori shiny side-down with the long side in front of you. Spread the rice on the sheet as evenly as possible, leaving 2cm (3/4") of nori on the far end free of rice. On the center of the rice, spread the fish roe evenly, then place the crabstick, then the mango and cucumber, so the slivers extend from end to end. Keeping the middle and index fingers on the filling so it doesn't burst out, roll the mat with your thumbs, then compress and finish rolling. Press on the ends of the finished whole roll, then cut off the ends to neaten, then cut into 8 equal pieces.

It'll probably be easier to understand the rolling process from this site. Place a dollop of mayonnaise on top of each cut roll and serve with soy sauce and wasabi.

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