Fresh Wasabi Versus The Weary Adverb

This is an ode to simplicity – in part a tribute to fresh wasabi, and in part a war against the adverb. One is pure, intense and nothing but its own glorious self. The other is flouncy, florid and dilutes everything it attaches itself to. The adverbs I’ve got it in for go like this: I’m truly, honestly sorry – as opposed to dishonestly sorry?  I’m actively engaged in this task – how else could you be? I’m exceptionally busy – busy is busy, after all and to add the adverb is to boast.

In the spirit of simplicity, purity and all-round reductive delightfulness, fresh wasabi is the culinary antithesis of adverbial. I’ve just been sent a gnarled, green root of fresh wasabi from The Wasabi Company, grown, bizarrely, in my favourite county of Dorset. Its looks are against it – it resembles the index finger of an aged warlock’s hand. But peel it and grate it, and it’s a revelation.

Commercial wasabi mixed up from powder, or the little khaki green blobs of wasabi that come with pre-packed sushi, usually contain only 5 to 10% actual wasabi. The difference in flavour that comes from the fresh root is remarkable – like a full orchestra playing Bach, compared to My Old Man’s a Dustman performed on a kazoo. The taste of freshly grated wasabi plays all over the tongue and has a delicate perfume to it, as well as all the usual nose-twanging, mouth-tingling, throat-sizzling effects that you would expect.

For the nerdy amongst us, there’s the added appeal of the little tools that are needed to turn Gandalf’s digits into pale green deliciousness. There’s the grinding, the brushing, the heaping into chartreuse-coloured mounds on a plate. I can think of few other ingredients that are so simply and perfectly themselves. It needs no glitter, no tinsel, and certainly no adverbs to be just itself. And at this time of year, when glitter and adverbs are sloshing around all over the place, that purity is something to celebrate.



  1. I needed this post today – it made me smile so much especially the comparisons to ‘Gandalf’s digits’. You’ve made me eager to try fresh wasabi (slightly addicted to the stuff anyway). There is a purity about it’s assault on the senses. Realise that I am guilty of adverb misuse (striking out the word extremely here!)

    1. I am very happy to have made you smile, Sally. While writing this post I realised how easy it is to strew ones writing with adverbs. They can be useful but I’m guilty of overusing them.

  2. LOL – forgive me father, for I have sinned… I love me an adverb! Although honestly is not usually one I pick (does that say more about me than about the adverb?!). But yes, you are right, they are often superfluous. My mother’s pet hate was hopefully, as in “hopefully we will go to the cinema tomorrow”. Really? You go in hope that the movie won’t suck?!

    As for fresh wasabi, I first had it at Nobu in Dubai – here is how I described it, thankfully without flaccid adverbs! “Proper fresh wasabi paste is a whole other beast – it is more like a small tornado erupting on your tongue and then spiralling up through your palate and brain, exiting through the top of your skull and leaving your entire head sparkling from the inside.”

    1. A great description of fresh wasabi, Jeanne and your memory of cinema trips with your mother made me laugh. I remember reading your post about Nobu – along with your vivid descriptions of what you ate. Fresh wasabi is easier to get than some of the astonishing things you were served, and I couldn’t agree more that it’s a revelation.

  3. Wonderful Charlie – I wholeheartedly agree as opposed to simply agree with Sally! Made me smile and put fresh wasabi on my Asia store list for saturday – perfect to go with your graved lax which will grace my Christmas tabel as an appetizer!
    Happy holidays Dear and may we meet again in person in the upcoming new year.
    xox Karin

    1. A heart-warming message to receive, Karin. I will think of you and your family on Christmas Day. And yes, do let’s meet up in 2013 x

  4. Another wordsmith’s and foodie’s delight. Almost as good as the food itself and wonderfully inventive writing.

  5. I’m now busy examining my conscience to see if I too have sinned on the adverb front.. Like Jeanne, I remember ‘hopefully’ being a pet hate of several adults when I was a teenager, so when I use it now I still feel a blip of their disapproval!

    I’ve never come across fresh wasabi… still acclimatising to the taste explosion of the diluted versions I come across, so I’m not sure if I’m ready for the tornado experience yet!

    1. It’s not a tornado exactly, but rather an exquisite version of the original fire – if you see what I mean!

  6. I think thanks to Jamie – I saw this come through on Twitter and welcome the introduction to another food writer/blog I am actively exceptionally excited (sorry) to start reading as well as a pure ingredient I look forward to trying. We do get so used to that green processed stuff that we forget what we are meant to be eating.

    1. Hi Beth Thanks very much – I’m so pleased that you’re looking forward to reading Eggs On The Roof. Something else to thank Jamie for!

  7. Forget the wasabi, and even the words, for the moment. I MUST hear all about that tray with the three round indentations! I have an hereditary addiction to china, glassware, flatware and all manner of kitchen gadgetry.

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