I think in one of the Scandinavian nations, caught herring are fermented for at least six months. By the time it’s ready to eat, the smell is so strong, you are advised to open the can outdoors. Mmm-mmm. But that’s the magic of surstromming. I’ve read that it has a strong umami taste, which is to be expected. We ferment fish all the time to get achieve this particular flavor profile. For example, Worcestershire sauce derives much of its umami flavor from anchovies. It’s also a safe sauce that you can use sparingly. On the other hand, surstromming’s texture is said to be kinda like cheese. No doubt, it is an acquired taste.
On the island of Sardinia, they like to ferment cheese by adding insect larvae (read: maggots). As the larvae feast away, they leave behind digestive fluids that break down the cheese’s fats. This has the effect of softening the cheese, but I’m sure the digestive fluids add their own special touch to the overall flavor. Once the cheese is finally ready to eat, you can remove the maggots… or not. It’s up to you. It’s not as though they haven’t left their mark on the cheese itself. If you like gorgonzola, you’d probably like casu marzu. That is, if you can get past the ick factor. Once again, what we have here is an acquired taste.
What am I getting at? Well, there are tons of delicacies that I would never, ever touch. Personally, I can’t get past the ick factor. I won’t even try balut, so you are never going to convince me to try maggot-infested cheese. I guess I’m just not that adventurous and courageous. At the same time, however, I don’t doubt that a lot of people find these weird foods delicious. And that’s kind of the beauty of food. It’s what makes food culture so uniquely human.
Animals, for instance, don’t exhibit this peculiar quirk. For the most part, they largely agree on what they like to eat. Sure, some cats like bananas and some don’t, but we’re not talking natto, durian, or even something seemingly benign to most Americans like meatloaf. Trust me, a chunk of ground meat slathered in ketchup is weird to somebody. If they try it, they might like it. But then again, they might not and that’s actually the awesome part.
My point is that this multiplicity of taste should be celebrated. You don’t want to tell people they’re wrong for liking casu marzu. That’d be like going to go back to 17th century Japan and demand that they enlighten themselves on the superiority of European classicism. And even if they do gain an appreciation for it, it wouldn’t hurt to break a few rules here and there.
Defying conventions is nothing new anyway. We’ve been doing it since… forever, really. We wouldn’t have Picasso if everyone wanted to just paint nothing but epic, historical scenes over and over. So it’s funny that French cuisine is held to such high regard in this anime when it too has continually undergone massive shifts in philosophy. As one might expect, young chefs often decry the old, staid traditions in favor of the new and revolutionary. We’ve gone from cuisine classique to haute cuisine to nouvelle, so on and so forth. Art is always evolving, and cooking is no different.
French cooking doesn’t normally utilize charcoal, but nobody says we can’t. Classically trained chefs don’t often add Japanese snacks to their dishes, but nobody says we can’t. All that matters is that the final dish tastes good. So it’s a bit bizarre to see how Elite 10 members like Eishi can be so taken by Azami’s so-called revolution. If Eishi was really passionate about French cuisine, he’d know the history of it. He’d understand that innovation is as much a part of French cuisine as any other cuisine on this planet. So why would he and his cohorts want to install Azami’s limited vision?
Well, the easy answer is that Shokugeki no Soma isn’t a very serious anime, so it doesn’t have serious characters. Eishi, like most characters on this show, merely plays a limited role within the overall narrative. He’s one of the big, bad bosses that Yukihira will eventually have to defeat, and as such, he’s a caricature of this posh, ultra-elite interpretation of French cuisine. He’s never once thought about the art of French cooking and its future, because he doesn’t have to. He can show grudging respect for Yukihira’s venison with chestnut dish, but that’s as far as he’ll go.
And this is one of the many reasons why Shokugeki no Soma can’t fully satiate my appetite for cooking in anime. It’s just too shallow that it’s not even really fun to watch. I tune in every week out of mere curiosity.
Anyway, the unofficial duel between Yukihira and Eishi unfolds as we expect it to. Our hero digs into his bag of tricks to put out something unique and innovative. But he’s still too inexperienced to challenge Eishi’s refined cooking. Not by Erina’s standards, anyway. Yukihira accepts his defeat, though. But again, like we predicted, Eishi does not force Yukihira to join Central. He claims that the latter is too unpredictable to serve as a proper right hand man, but we know that’s just a bad lie. Erina later asks if Eishi had taken pity on Yukihira, but he simply replies that the protagonist can’t be changed. He’s not a weak-willed follower. Erina should probably take note, but she won’t.
What do I think of the dishes this week? Like always, we as viewers can only judge them with our eyes. As such, I’m going to harp on the lazy plating. Yukihira basically put out a steak dish. On his plate, you have hunks of lazily-cut venison, some chestnuts, and a lot of sauce. Sure, if this was a steak competition, his dish is fine. But as an actual main course, Yukihira once again offers something that feels incomplete. Eishi’s dish has a little more going on, but again, it’s mostly meat and little else. It’s a venison challenge, so venison has to be the star. I’m not trying to dispute this at all. But c’mon, guys, gimme a little more. Show me your vision as a chef.
The following day, we see Megumi and Ikumi score big victories against Central, but we don’t get to actually see what they really made. What a shame. Off to the side, Eishi says to Azami that this batch of first-years is unlike anything he’s ever seen before. Most of all, he attributes their tenacity to Yukihira. When Azami learns that Yukihira is from Polar Star Dormitory, he decides to pay his daughter a visit.
Naturally, the anime plays up Azami’s creepiness, which never gets old. We then get a bunch of exposition that I don’t care too much about. Apparently, he used to be an alumnus of the same dormitory, so Yukihira can’t help but wonder why he’s so hellbent now on destroying the place. Azami reveals that the cooking world had ruined Joichi, and that’s why he intends to fix it. In other words, like his daughter, he’s got a huge crush on Yukihira’s father. Our hero’s just like, “Oh, you mean my dad?”
Azami’s shocked. Erina’s shocked. And I’m sitting here, thinking to myself, “So?” Anyway, the episode ends with a “To be continued?” I don’t know if that means there’s no episode next week or not, but if I can’t write about Shokugeki no Soma, I guess I’ll just put up a post about my recent trip to a 3-Michelin-star restaurant.