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.