The following is a homework assignment I did for my food writing class with the super-awesome Tori Ritchie of Tuesday Recipe. The task was to write a short piece about the grossest thing I’ve ever eaten. So naturally, I picked the one dining experience that reminded me of the final scene in Pink Flamingos

Natto’s not so good. Natto rhymes with snot-o. Natto tastes like rot-o.

I’d heard all the childish put-downs before, but I doubted the naysayers. Is it really possible for a vegetable-based product to taste that bad?

Yes. Times infinity. I’ve now sworn off fermented, slimy soybeans for life.

I had the misfortune of sampling natto while on our honeymoon in Japan, where we became exponentially more destitute as the days passed. The highlight of our stay was the two nights we spent in a fancy ryokan in Hakone, a Japanese inn where guests are served a traditional breakfast and dinner in their rooms.

Since we arrived late, our first meal was breakfast the following morning. As we rubbed the sleep from our eyes, a smiley elderly woman brought us trays filled with small covered lacquer boxes. She lifted the lids off each container to reveal a succession of tasty morsels that made my eyes sparkle.

Grilled fish!

Miso soup with mini clams!


Hey! Who took a doodie on my rice?

I’m not normally grossed out by unfamiliar food. When we ate our way through China, I slurped up bear-claw stew while casually studying the toes poking out of the bowl. However, nothing compares compares to the full-frontal assault of natto. The mucus-like texture, ripe barnyard smell, sour “off” taste, and the shiny brown freshly-laid appearance made me gag and scrub my tongue with a napkin. Repeatedly.

Natto’s never gonna get past these lips again, even if I’m blotto.

[Photo: Jasja Dekker]

About Michelle Tam

Hello! My name is Michelle Tam, and I love to eat. I think about food all the time. It borders on obsession. I’ve always loved the sights and smells of the kitchen. My mother was (and is) an excellent cook, and as a kid, I was her little shadow as she prepared supper each night. From her, I gained a deep, abiding love for magically transforming pantry items into mouth-watering family meals.

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