Recently I went to lunch with a very nice physician and she took me to a sushi place which worried me a little bit because I have a hard time eating raw fish. Of course you can always go for the tempura this and that, but although I like fried food I do not eat it often and do not wish it to be my whole meal. Well, to my surprised the doctor felt exactly the same way and it happened that the restaurant had many other choices on the menu and we had a very good lunch. So we started to talk about how we both insist on having our food fully cooked. To me it is basic safety as you want to be sure to destroy any possible bacteria and parasites (especially in fish and pork) that I learned about while studying parasitology in pharmacy school. (That was one of my favorite courses!) And there is nothing that cuts my appetite more than cutting through a piece of chicken that is all pink inside. Again, this is potentially dangerous and it is hard to chew. I think the same regarding veal and salmon. I remember when the restaurants first introduced the “half-cooked” salmon (saumon a l’uni-lateral). The first time I heard of it was in a very trendy Danish restaurant on the Champs Elysees. It just does not do anything for me. I do not think it adds anything. I also remember sharing a few dishes in another upscale place in Venice, Calif. and my friends trying to demonstrate to me that a semi translucent lobster was the way to go. Well, they just had more to eat. Even my pasta I do not like “al dente.” Of course we do not want it all gummy and sticky, but it is much harder to digest pasta that is still firm and, regarding the taste, it does not absorb the sauce as much as well cooked pasta. And what about those almost raw broccoli, carrots and other vegetables? It has no flavor to me and it hurts my jaw! So here is my least favorite dish: al dente pasta primavera with raw veggies and a piece of pink chicken! I understand you do not want to destroy the vitamins by over cooking your veggies. (By the way, a great way to preserve a lot of the vitamins and mineral in vegetables is by steaming them.) However, we went through the Age of Fire for a reason. One of my favorite nonfiction authors and scientists is the French anthropologist Claude Levi Strauss who wrote “The Raw and the Cook.” He talks about how cooking food with a ”human fire” was a step in evolution from nature to culture. It is a very interesting topic that has lots of ramifications. For people who speak French I recommend watching Claude Levi Strauss’ interview about the book. You will see many other interviews with giant writers and it struck me how well spoken and brilliant people were at that time in the 1960s (journalists, authors, scientists, etc.).
Ultimately it is a matter of taste and choice and you can eat the fish off the hook if it pleases you. Just remember that fish have worms. I know, it is a pretty disgusting image; the good news is that once cooked the worms are harmless! And if you do love sushi (like my niece) and I hear it can be delicious, I would just recommend enjoying it from a quality and reputable source.
One last thing: If you get food poisoning, you can get great relief from the symptoms (mainly the GI ones such as diarrhea) by taking 5 sublingual pellets of the homeopathic medicine Arsenicum album 9C or 30C. You can take it several times a day for 1 or 2 days. When you vomit as well, the pellets are very appreciated because you do not need to take them with water, which may trigger more vomiting. It is definitely a medicine I take with me when I travel abroad and I am suspicious of the food and water quality.