As I’m occasionally wont to do, I went to an izakaya to satisfy some Japanese food cravings, this time to Wann in Belltown.
We ordered many of the predictable small plates, from yakitori to yam fries, kurobuta sausage to shumai, and chicken tatsutaage to atsuage tofu. Some sushi rolls, too. And against my better judgment, but certainly with a sense of curiosity, we also got an order of takoyaki. I wanted to compare them to what I’ve had in Japan, and what we make at home. These grilled octopus balls (no: not anatomically speaking) are a street treat that are particularly popular in Osaka, but available throughout Japan. (We haven’t had a dedicated takoyaki-maker in the Seattle area until recently; I’ve just gotten word that they’re available every other weekend at the Bellevue Uwajimaya.)
At Wann, they were wanting. As I can’t imagine that there’s an actual takoyaki grill pan in the kitchen, I’m guessing they’re using frozen ones and perhaps deep-frying them, with the resulting octopus balls a bit too crunchy and oily. But for those not familiar with takoyaki, they’re still fun.
Takoyaki, if you don’t know, are basically fritters made in a special pan, with holes the size of golf balls. To the batter you add octopus, pickled ginger, tenkasu (tempura bits, like Rice Krispies), green onions, and maybe cabbage pieces. You turn the balls until cooked, move them to a plate, and then top with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise (preferably Kewpie), aonori (seaweed flakes), and katsuobushi (shavings of dried bonito).
So what does Wann’s takoyaki teach us about sex?
It’s all about shavings as the final touch.
One thing I love about takoyaki in Japan is that the preparation is part of the fun of the takoyaki experience. I enjoy watching the takoyakiya-san pour batter into the huge grill pans, add the fillings, and swiftly spin the balls in the cups using special takoyaki sticks. Once done, he or she stabs each ball with a stick for plating, then effortlessly squirts squiggles of the sauces from multi-spouted bottles before tossing on a colorful shake of the aonori and a sprinkling of those bonito shavings. The bonito shavings do a dance on top of the takoyaki, providing sensual pleasure to the dish.
Shavings can do the same for sex.
Men, if you shave your face an appropriate time ahead of sex, your skin will be smooth and your partner will appreciate it. A scratchy, sandpapery feel can be abrasive, perhaps scaring your partner away from your face–and from the intimacy of the occasion.
The shaving dilemma extends to “down there”–for both genders.
In my college lectures, I show a Scandinavian sex education video that’s rather graphic. (It’s animated, and much to the surprise of my audience which becomes amazed at how backward America actually is in regard to sex education, aimed at middle school students.) My students gasp when they see the varying amounts of female pubic hair in the video. (And in this era of the Mangroomer, there can be similar reaction to male pubic hair.) Granted, the video is a bit old, but still, pubic hair is a personal preference, and one that can vary by age, culture, geographic region, etc.
There are pros and cons to cutting or shaving pubic hair. Advantages include a tidy look, positive sensitivity to touch, and ease of cleaning. Disadvantages include the loss of natural odor some like, the lack of a soft, pillowy feeling, and–especially if shaving instead of clipping (which can be unruly)–the potential for razor bumps, rash, and itchiness or negative sensitivity. Oh…and there’s also the need for maintenance, which brings with it the chance for injury if you slip while bringing something sharp near your genitals.
Bottom line: As with most things sexual, learn what you like (best to have an open mind), try before you buy, and ask each other what you like and what you’re willing to do for each other. As with Wann’s takoyaki, shavings can add spice and sensuality when you’re doing some dirty dancing.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on September 8, 2011.