Sea Urchin Sex

February 19, 2008 at 10:40 pm (food, ocean, sex) (, , )

My favorite sushi treat is “uni” AKA sea urchin. While most people think the edible inside is called roe, it’s actually the gonads of the male sea urchin. It looks like a textured paste, but feels light and airy to the tongue. The taste… well, it tastes like fresh sea air. Delicious. How many other animals can say that about their gonads??

All along our great California coast divers brave the cold water to deliver millions of dollars worth in uni gold to Japan. During the 1960’s the sea urchin was declared a “pest” because of the tendency to eat entire kelp forests. After that, the market took off, partially helped by a Federal subsidizing program. Over-fishing of sea urchin is now a big problem, leaving me to wonder if I should even be ordering them. red-sea-urchin.jpg

My guilt increases when I look back on 8th grade Career Day. Let me explain. For years as a child I wanted to be a Marine Biologist. It would be so fun to study the beautiful sea life on a boat! My awesome mom made some calls and scored an invitation with a top scientist in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, off the coast of Washington.

First, we kayaked around the island and almost instantly spotted a whole pod of Orca whales, a mama and baby and nurses. Incredible. This was it! This was what I wanted to do. I was so excited about my possible future calling… until we visited the laboratory. This intelligent, funny scientist spent most of her time in a fluorescent-lit, linoleum-floored underground room studying the reproductive habits of sea urchin. I shit you not.

From that day on my romantic ideas of marine biology (or science careers in general) were completely gone. Studying the gonads of spiny bottom-feeders sounds like a bad joke, not a great career path. I completely forgot about the little sea urchin, until years later at an adventurous sushi dinner.

Now I’m wondering– Should I have gone to school to help the little guys get it on?

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