Sex & Sushi

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These days Korean Brother is working his apprenticeship towards becoming a sushi chef in a large restaurant. Raw seafood of all kinds is popular in Korea, perhaps particularly in port cities such as Busan where it’s possible to sit in a tent on the sea-front eating live ‘sea penis’ while waves wash in beneath you. In fact fish, and the smell of fish, can seem ever-present. Mixed with the frequent back-drafts from the sewage systems, it can be quite a heady mix. Sushi restaurants, are of course, everywhere.

These days Korean Brother is working his apprenticeship towards becoming a sushi chef in a large restaurant. Raw seafood of all kinds is popular in Korea, perhaps particularly in port cities such as Busan where it’s possible to sit in a tent on the sea-front eating live ‘sea penis’ while waves wash in beneath you. In fact fish, and the smell of fish, can seem ever-present. Mixed with the frequent back-drafts from the sewage systems, it can be quite a heady mix. Sushi restaurants, are of course, everywhere.

Recently we went to a large Japanese restaurant to celebrate a family birthday, where he was not happy to discover that the resident sushi chef was a woman. “Women’s hands are too warm to prepare sushi” he informed us with deep conviction. It wasn’t the first time he’d said this, in fact, much like fan death, a lot of people seem to accept the notion that ideally women shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near raw fish as ‘common knowledge’. Dubious, I thought I would have to do some research.

It transpires that this is not merely a belief limited to the rather conservative city of Busan, because the notion appears to be shared as far away as Japanese restaurants in Canada, which probably imported it from their homeland. Warm hands and menstruation are said to be among the primary reasons.

In fact, there seems to be quite a bit of discussion on sushi preparation and warm hands, but while I was looking into the subject I discovered that despite my logical expectations, men and women’s hands may indeed not generally be the same temperature. The only problem with this revelation – for male sushi-chef warm-hand theorists everywhere, is that it’s actually men’s hands that might be warmer.

In itself, this revelation is unlikely to shake the foundations of the Korean sushi industry, since it’s a cultural feature here that well-established local urban legends almost always beat foreign scientific research for perceived factuality. However, what may be less easily dismissed, is finding a respectable Korean scientist with a paper in The Lancet stating that “women are more likely to have cold hands than men”.

Sadly, my Korean language skills are not sufficient to explain to Korean Brother that, on the logic of the warm hands theory he supports, all male sushi chefs must now be replaced by women, although I don’t really expect this country’s poor OECD gender discrimination statistics to be challenged; after all, there’s still the menstruation issue.



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