I recently came across a container of fermented soybeans in the supermarket. I don’t mean an old container of soybeans some stock-boy forgot to toss. These are fermented-on-purpose soybeans from Japan. That’s what Natto is.
I remembered hearing about this stuff on Iron Chef one time when it was the secret ingredient. The judges in the show were commenting on what a great job the chefs had done to “suppress the smell” of the natto. Now, I’m no Iron Chef, but I’ve got a clever way to suppress the smell… Don’t put it in your food. I might not win “Battle Natto”, but I promise you my dinner won’t smell like 26 year old sun baked french cheese either.
I found it slightly unsettling that the sealed styrofoam container had creepy little air-holes in it. As if what was inside needed to breathe. I dared to lift the lid, which made me regret that I needed to breathe. The natto was coated in some kind of sick slime and had the complex yet playful aroma of a dumpster in July.
Actually, the little pile inside looked kinda like baked beans. It also smelled kinda like baked beans…if they were baked in the blistering heat of a dog turd on a hot summer day.
This particular batch was made by a company in Japan called Shirakiku. I haven’t been able to determine if Shirakiku is a food manufacturer, or just a store that sells gag gifts and practical jokes. It might be both.
Not unlike most of the cast of any version of desperate housewives, these harmless soybeans had undergone some kind of hideous transformation which were now a freakish version of their former selves. (Which, coincidentally, should also be kept far away from your childrens’ eyes.)
The most disturbing aspect of this stuff is it seems to get “activated” when you stir it. What I mean by this is, (and I may actually weep, but…) the slimy coating on the beans develops into stringy, stretchy, marshmallow-like strands that will forever haunt my dreams.
Basically, if you move it back and forth enough, you’re left with a gross, sticky mess. And now that I think about it, it looks like the pranksters back at Shirakiku did something really gross into my beans. You guuuys!
I force-fed myself a big ol’ spoonful, and found it to be slightly rancid and extremely bitter. Unfortunately, swallowing didn’t help dissipate the flavor because the strings of bean schmootz melted, coating my mouth and lips with a glistening sheen of extreme sadness.
The entire experience is difficult to describe, but if you can remember back to the very first time you made out with a hobo’s ass, it’s probably a lot like that.
What I find most hilarious is that there is an expiration date on the package. What could they possibly expect to happen to the product on this date THAT HAS NOT ALREADY OCCURRED?!!!
Also, nestled in this mound of compost was a li’l packet of mustard. In its place, I would strongly suggest a hand written apology.
I do have one last theory about the date on the package. It may be an expiration date, but not for the beans. If you finish the container, that’s the day you die.