Mealtime Intersectionality as Categorical Imperative

In tonight’s post, we probe the liminal space between “raw” and “cooked” and explore how the resulting tension manifests in the eater’s experience of flesh-as-food.

In other words:

  1. I made ceviche.
  2. I have recently been viewing modern art.


Before getting into the nitty gritty, I must state that I only realized it was Cinco de Mayo AFTER I made the ceviche, and this dish is in no way an attempt to observe that most Corona- and guacamole-fueled of holidays. I mean, I appreciate the commemoration of the day Mexico finally banished the last of the chupacabras from the Yucatan peninsula as much as the next gal – yay, Mexico! – but, you know, not my country.*

*Oh, Like YOU know what Cinco de Mayo is really about. Go drink your $3 frozen strawberry margarita and give me a goddamn break.


I’d been wondering if I could use ceviche as the gateway preparation that would eventually endear me to sushi. I have a lot of texture issues when it comes to food, and sushi is high on the list of mouthfeels that squick me out. But everyone LOVES the fucking sushi SO MUCH and I’m getting tired of being the toolbox who always gets the tempura shrimp; the only other people who get tempura shrimp at sushi restaurants are toddlers, and in New York, even most of THEM think that’s lame.

I do, however, love a good scallop, and a barely cooked scallop at that, so I decided to try a tropical-esque, spicy ceviche with enough color and flavor to get me over the rawness hump.*

*“Rawness Hump” is the name of the new comedy special I’m filming as part of an Andrew Dice Clay retrospective.**

**Not really.***

***It’s actually called “Fuck You, You Fucking Fuckers: Dice n’ Easy.”

um, still raw

While diced scallops – fresh dry scallops only, please – marinated in a combo of lemon, lime and orange juice, I diced up some red bell pepper, jalapeño, papaya and cilantro. I also mixed up a dressing of more citrus, a little fish sauce, sugar and salt in which to toss everything.

The scallops spent about an hour sitting in their acid bath and as you can see, the post-acidulation scallops look pretty much the same as the pre-acidulation scallops. Don’t get me wrong, I know that soaking seafood in acid doesn’t actually cook anything. Still, I was hoping for more of a cosmetic change to make the first bite easier by fooling my brain into thinking it was eating something cooked.

Oh, well.


I drained the scallops and tossed them with the dressing and accouterments, then scooped some into a cocktail coupe; you eat with your eyes first, dontcha know. It’s pretty, n’est-ce pas? I wonder who I have to talk to to have it officially designated as “art”? Sure, it would eventually start to reek as it sat on display, but that would just add another layer of depth as it forced the viewer to ponder his or her own mortality and relationship to the natural world via an intimate encounter with crustacean decay.

Plus, if MoMA considera a bowl full of mussel shells to be art worthy of display, THIS TOTALLY COUNTS. Call me, Maja Oeri and Hans Bodenmann! I have a chicken carcass and a pile of cucumber peelings I think you’d find really provocative, and I’m willing to offer it to you at a deeply discounted price!*

*In all seriousness, some of the MoMA is mindblowing – the Cindy Sherman exhibit is pretty killer, and you can’t go wrong with the Diego Rivera gallery – but parts of it make me want to punch an art student in the balls. Maybe I’m a philistine, but some of the installations and what they ask me to consider produce nothing more than irritation, then anger, then boredom. I’m looking at you, Lawrence Weiner and your “Wall Pitted by a Single Air Rifle Shot.”


Anyway, ceviche. It looked lovely. It smelled good. It tasted…like spicy raw scallops, and as usual, I couldn’t get past the texture thing. Which was a damn shame, because the freshness, heat, tang and gentle sweetness were delightful and well-balanced; not to mention it was dinnertime and I was really fricking hungry.

Brian has no such qualms about raw protein and loves all raw seafood, so he happily scarfed down the entire bowl while I had a gouda and cracker appetizer followed by a cereal entree.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go examine the intimate relationship between evacuation, small spaces and the way we communicate through a series of universally agreed-upon symbols that may nevertheless be re-ordered in ways that produce confusion and division that belie our innate interconnectedness, by which I mean play Boggle on my iPhone while taking a shit.

Spicy Scallop Ceviche
2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. fresh orange juice
8 oz. fresh, dry sea scallops
1 tsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 c. diced red bell pepper
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/4 c. peeled and diced ripe papaya
3 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro

In a medium bowl, mix two tablespoons each of lime, lemon and orange juice together. Cut the scallops into a half-inch dice and add to the juice. The juice should cover the scallops. Cover in plastic wrap and stash in the fridge for one hour.

Take the scallops out of the fridge and drain off all the juice. In a small bowl, mix the remaining citrus juices, fish sauce, sugar and salt together; stir briefly to dissolve the sugar.

Pour the dressing over the scallops and toss in the peppers, papaya and cilantro. Serve immediately.

10 thoughts on “Mealtime Intersectionality as Categorical Imperative

  1. so…the truth is, the acid doesnt so much “cook” the seafood ( i hate the use of the term, because its wrong. only heat cooks, like the heat generated vigorously whisking eggs is enough heat to pretty much kill bad stuff), so much as it pickles it. I generally marinate for more than an hour, especially when it comes to stuff like scallops and shrimp…they just take longer. i’d say prep it all mid-morning to sit in the fridge for supper. actual fish takes alot less time to cure, the less dense, the quicker (NC Triggerfish makes a heavenly ceviche, but so does tuna). Finally…it needs to be FRESH. like off the boat, or just par boil it—which i’ve done.

    oh, and it does best as an appetizer or first course, IMO…not that you actually asked. :P

  2. Have to say, seared tuna over sesame buckwheat noodles was my sushi gateway drug.

    Now I OD on raw mackerel. (I love you, Gen! Brooklyn Japanese Rasta gives me a contact high.)

  3. @vera, most of my totally inadequate research said an hour was fine; maybe i’ll try again the next time i find such awesome scallops on sale.

    @annie, i tried the seared tuna route, and it was a total no-go. maybe i’m just not cut out for sushi.

  4. I in a “sushi” capital, what with being in Vancouver and all. But I will NEVER and I mean NEVER eat “raw” fish or meat. The feeling of it in my mouth just makes me gag. And really who wants to see that at the dinner table? I don’t care if it makes me uncool.
    Give me cooked meat or give me vegetables! (I am having a t-shirt made, would you like one?)

  5. After reading today’s post, I feel bad about not commenting on this when you posted it. But I do want to assure you that your faux-art-theory had me in very non-faux hysterics. I’m a Ph.D. candidate in English /and/ I do critical theory (double-whammy) and this is how my people speak and write and how I’m supposed to speak and write and though I sort of long for it I also really hate it. There’s a lot of mental masturbation in English graduate programs, which is why most theory peeps are men. But so last weekend, there was this conference of total theory-heads, really eminent names in my field, and I wanted to go SO BADLY but I didn’t, and I was following it on Twitter and feeling really shite because I wasn’t there…and then the tweets just got denser and bullshittier and by Sunday, I was all, “These people are ridiculous. They aren’t even talking about anything. It’s just buzzwords.” And then I read your post and I /howled/ with laughter, and I shared it with like ninety million people and they all laughed too and I’m sorry that I didn’t write to you sooner to tell you about it. Also, what the fuck is wrong with you that you don’t like ceviche? It is possibly the BestFoodOnEarth.

  6. I seriously love me some raw sashimi-grade tuna. And I can handle mackeral (and I have just typed that three different ways and none of them look like they’re spelled correctly) and haddock and whitefish and salmon easily enough. Sweet shrimp, which is kinda like shrimp ceviche in that it’s marinated in something acidic) is good. But I do NOT like other shellfish (scallops, conch, abalone) raw. And, God help me, I’ve never been able to deal with eel in any form. They seriously squick me out.

    Try shrimp ceviche next time. It goes down pretty well. But if you don’t love good, fresh, sashimi-grade raw tuna, well…you may just not be a sushi-head, ever. (Try yakitori ‘sted of tempura shrimp; it sounds more impressive. And gyoza are always a winner.)

    I will agree with the poster upthread who emphasized the need for freshness. I had sushi once at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, and I knew it had been swimming about six hours earlier. ‘Bout ruined me for stateside sushi.

  7. I say stand tall in your dislike for sushi! Although, I like sushi just fine, I get aggravated when that’s the only dining out option that some of my friends have. It’s expensive, it’s small portions and it’s just too precious. You can’t get down to just plain grubbing at a sushi place! But I do love ceviche and yours looked quite beautiful!

    PS Good use of squick

  8. @lizz, i don’t know what’s wrong with me. maybe it was my troubled childhood.

    i wish you would post more comments that employ critical theory-speak, because then i wouldn’t feel so weird about using more biblical textual criticism in my posts.

    @kayb, i do love gyoza. and i think you’re right that i need to accept i’m not a sushi person and move on.

    @gene, thanks!

  9. Sushi totally grosses me out. But because I am Asian, and am supposed to love all things edible, I choke the shit down when relatives are hosting. YES, I AM LIVING A LIE. A lot of raw fish ends up in restaurant planters and on the floor, smushed into an unrecognizable paste. (Welcome to the wonderful world of Asian-chick cuckoo-bananary.) I hope I just made you feel better with my pathetic-ness. Fuck sushi. Raw shit is for the animals.

  10. Pingback: Lovely nostalgia, or BLATANT LINK FARM? | King of States!

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