Friday, 12 August 2011


“Sport is a preserver of health.” – Hippocrates

I had a very busy day today, with both desk work as well as a couple of appointments off-campus. One of the bonuses was that I was in the vicinity of Federation Square at lunchtime, when Cadel Evans was being feted for his Tour de France win. In today’s celebration, Evans rode along St Kilda Rd from the National Gallery of Victoria to Federation Square, where he took to the stage to address the populace. Tens of thousands of people lined the route to honour Evans’ achievement and give him a reception usually reserved for AFL footballers and Olympic Games heroes. The feeling was upbeat and euphoric and it was good to see Evans being very friendly with the crowd and showing humility and good-humoured amusement by the massive reception reserved for him.

There were several politicians present, including our Lord Mayor and the Victorian Premier, this being a prime PR opportunity for them, rubbing shoulders with the hero of the moment. Cadel is Australia’s first Tour de France winner, and at 34 years is the oldest rider to win the Tour de France since 1923. It was quite fortuitous to be there and take part in this event, one of several anonymous thousands united in a celebratory moment and celebrating a historic sporting victory.

My mind turned to the other type of crowd rioting in England. Or should I say the throng? In both cases, they were large masses of people joining together with more or less a common purpose or goal. In the one case, they were orderly, celebratory, respectful of each other and the only destructive effect they had was perhaps a few items of rubbish left behind after they dispersed. In the other case, there was a violent rabble that was motivated by anger, barbarism, misplaced angst, greed and hate. In their wake they left fire, destruction and death. We are still lucky here in Australia that we can gather together and behave as civilised human beings do. Even in sporting events, crowds in other countries riot and people kill and maim each other with the excuse of supporting different football sides.

On the way back I stopped and bought some sushi for lunch. Sushi is of course nowadays well-known and popular around the world. It is a Japanese delicacy consisting of cooked rice with vinegar (shari) combined with a variety of other ingredients (neta). Neta and forms of sushi presentation vary, but the ingredient which all sushi have in common is shari. The most common neta is seafood. However, its popularity in many countries and its adaptability and ensured that all sorts of exotic fillings are available.

Sushi originated in the 4th century BC in Southeast Asia. Salted fish, fermented with rice, was an important source of protein and could be preserved without spoiling for a relatively long time. The cleaned and gutted fish were kept in rice so that the natural fermentation of the rice helped preserve the fish. This type of sushi is called nare-zushi, and was taken out of storage after a couple of months of fermentation, and then only the fish was consumed while the rice was discarded.

Over time, this preserved dish spread throughout China, and later, around the 8th century AD, in the Heian period, it was introduced into Japan. Since Japanese preferred to eat rice together with fish, the sushi, called seisei-zushi, became popular at the end of Muromachi period. This type of sushi was consumed while the fish was still partly raw and the rice had not lost its flavour. In this way, sushi became more of a way of preparing food rather than a way to preserve food.

Later in Edo era, Japanese began making haya-zushi, which was created as a way to eat both rice and fish; this dish was unique to Japanese culture. Instead of being only used for fermentation, rice was mixed with vinegar and combined not only with fish but also with various vegetables and dried preserved foods. Today, each region of Japan still preserves its own unique taste by utilising local products in making different kinds of sushi that have been passed on for generations.

At the beginning of the 19th century, when Tokyo was still called Edo, the food service industry was mostly dominated by mobile food stalls, from which nigiri-zushi originated. Edomae, which literally means “in front of Tokyo bay”, was where the fresh fish and tasty seaweed for the nigiri-zushi were obtained. As a result, it was also called edomae-zushi, and it became popular among the people in Edo after Yohei Hanaya, a creative sushi chief, improved it to a simple but delicious food. Then, after the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923, nigiri-zushi spread throughout Japan as the skilled edomae-zushi chefs from Edo, who had lost their jobs, moved all over Japan.

The important seasonings served with sushi are soy sauce, and wasabi (Japanese hot horseradish sauce). Soy sauce is used as a dipping sauce. Wasabi is put in nigiri-zushi or is mixed with soy sauce for dipping. The most important side ingredient of sushi is ginger. Pickled ginger is called gari and is served with sushi. Gari is eaten between bites of sushi to refresh the mouth for each new taste.

In the 1980s, in the wake of increased health consciousness, sushi, one of the healthiest meals around, has got more attention; consequently, sushi bars have opened throughout the Western world. With the introduction of sushi machines, which combine the mass production of sushi with the delicate skills used by sushi chefs, making and selling sushi has become more accessible to countries all over the world.

I like most kinds of sushi, but particularly so the smoked salmon and fish roe, the teriyaki chicken, the vegetarian variety featuring avocado, and of course the widely popular California roll. Although I find wasabi much too hot for me, I do enjoy the soy sauce and preserved ginger. It is a healthful and tasty meal and perfect for lunch.