The Natto Project? No Thanks!

Categories: The Critic
nattolovers.jpg
thenattoproject.com
Two newly minted natto fans enjoy bowls of the fermented bean with sashimi and rice.
Ever had natto? The Japanese foodstuff is made of fermented soybeans that have a type of bacteria called bacillus subtilus added. The bacteria lends the beans a super-strong smell and also develops a stringy, sticky filament around them called neba. This combination of texture and smell is somewhat acquired, to say the least.

I've never managed to develop a taste for natto, as it were. I've tried it with spicy beef yukke; with tuna, rice, and scallion; and all by itself. I want to appreciate it, I do. But no matter the preparation, I just can't get past the smell. To call it "rotten" would be kind.

I was researching natto for my story on Nu-Sushi (which employs it in a number of dishes) when I found this site: The Natto Project. It's the blog of a couple living in New York who felt sort of like I do about natto. Instead of just giving up, however, they decided to start an experiment. They would force themselves to eat natto every day for a year and document the results. They wanted to see just how long it would take to acquire a taste for the stuff.

Reading their posts over the course of the experiment is interesting stuff -- it's neat to see how their disgust slowly turns into acceptance and finally to enjoyment. In the end, they learn to appreciate the funky bean and its stringy goo. I think that says something profound about our tastes in general. I may never be able to love natto, but someday, I might be able to enjoy it too.

Natto looks sort of gross, so I've avoided posting it above the cut. But if you click further into the post, you'll find some natto pictures to enjoy.


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