posted by Momo Fali on October 23, 2011

I just got back from a trip to Manhattan where I attended a writing conference for work. There were oodles of editors from Penguin and I even had the opportunity to spend 90 minutes in a mentoring session with a literary agent. Not everyone gets a chance like this and I spent the the days preceding the conference in diligent preparation.

I wrote a query letter and printed out sample chapters of my novel. I made sure that my business cards were packed, my clothes were professional, but not stodgy, and I practiced my elevator pitch until the moment I arrived at the opening reception. Which is also when I realized that I had packed the wrong Spanx.

If there is one thing that you don’t want publishing greats to know about you, it’s that you have visible panty lines and a bloated belly filled with a nerve-calming Corona and lunch; consisting of salt and vinegar chips from the hotel bar.

But, my array of good impressions didn’t stop there. In my middle-age, I have developed lovely dots of mustache sweat when I get nervous. If you see me wiping my upper lip for the first five minutes of our conversation, this is why.

Ah, but those things? They were nothing compared to my dinner with the former editor-in-chief of Redbook Magazine, Stacy Morrison (now a co-worker at BlogHer), and a couple of powerbloggers from NYC. I looked for pictures of Stacy online, but I couldn’t decide between the one of her with Cindy Crawford or the one with Harry Connick Jr.

That’s right, I was like the Ohio Tweedledum at a Times Square sushi restaurant with three, sophisticated New Yorkers.

Do you know that they don’t even give you forks at authentic, NYC sushi restaurants? I had to be taught how to use chopsticks by Stacy. So, understandably, when I got a nice big chunk of avocado between my sticks I was quite proud of my accomplishment. I quickly took the bite and puffed up my chest.

Only, I couldn’t puff up my chest. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t breathe at all. Because I hadn’t eaten a big bite of avocado, I had eaten a big bite of wasabi.

After the taste hit my tongue and my eyes started to water, I felt my nose hairs spontaneously combust. If you inhaled fire through your nostrils, the sensation would be a lot like eating a half-dollar-sized chunk of wasabi. I could actually feel the fumes entering my sinuses and if I hadn’t been sitting on the inside of the booth I would have made a run for the nearest tub of ice and buried my head. The good news is that the cold I was getting was obliterated within seconds.

My face turned red and I couldn’t talk. I thought, for a moment, that the description of “Spicy Titanic Roll” on the menu had been, grossly, under-exaggerated. New York menu designers are crazy, yo! It turned out, however, that “spicy” and “condiment” mean exactly the same things in New York as they do in Ohio.

And, you know what? So does moron.


  • Marinka

    I always miss all the good stories. But not this time. This time I had the front row seat. My grandchildren will be hearing about this. And so will theirs.

  • Polly

    O, you doll. Soigne urban sophisticates got nothin on your sincerity. I know you were among friends (old/new), and I betcha that as soon as they were sure you didn’t need to be carted off to the hospital, they were infinitely grateful for the unforgettable story. I know I am.

    PS. You should watch the sushi restaurant scene in the 1980s indie gem “I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing.” our heroine and you: two sweet peas in a pod.

  • meleah rebeccah

    Oh my god, you crack me the hell up! I can just see picture you after eating that big bite of wasabi!

    And if it makes you feel any better, not only will I form sweat beads on my upper lip, but I also instantly develop “Pit Stains” when I am nervous!

    PS: I am beyond thrilled you had the opportunity to meet with a literary agent!

  • Varda (Squashed Mom)

    Ah, Momo, I never thought I’d get ringside seats to watch someone bolt down a big gob of wasabi twice in my life. But the other night you fulfilled that dream.

    The shades of red you turned, the sounds that squeaked out if you? Priceless! I was feeling you pain, truly. But also? You know all of us at the table were thinking “great blog fodder here.”

    I’m glad you’ve thoroughly recovered, and I’m already plotting what kind of dangerous exotic cuisine to take you out to this summer, when you’re back for BH12.

  • Kristen

    I love you. This was exactly how I felt. I’m from Amish Country in PA and I felt as if … well – I needed a scarf and Mac Book and… *sigh* a life. 🙂

    Anyway, I’m so sorry that I didn’t get to actually meet you at the conference. Maybe we can meet up in August? Kristen @

  • Stacy @bklynstacy

    Oh, Momo, I am still just tickled by the combination of loving you, loving the sushi, and loving the most recent experience of laughing until I cried. Once we knew you were okay, of course… *sigh* If only life could be that spontaneous and hilarious and every day. But then you would have to leave Ohio and live in New York and then you would have been born knowing how to use chopsticks.(By the way, rest of the world: Momo is an EXCELLENT chopstick user! Prodigal, even.) xxx

  • Ann

    This is exactly how my husband felt at his first passover seder after trying a big bite of “that pink stuff”

    i.e. beet horseradish

  • BusyDad

    um, it’s a dry heat?

    I had no idea you didn’t know how to use chopsticks. Next time we need an excuse to drink all day, I will teach you how to properly use chopsticks. Because I have clearly already taught you how to use the swype function ducking strategically fave on your Droid.

    • Momo Fali

      I know! What kind of an Asian friend are you?

  • Robin | Farewell, Stranger

    This totally sounds like something I would do. How was the sweaty lip after that?! 😉

    • Momo Fali

      Really sweaty.

  • Tia G

    I did exactly the same thing when I first tried sushi! I was in Houston, however. Wasabi is the hottest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life! And I have had habanero peppers!

  • tracey - justanothermommy

    Oh nooo!!! You are killing me this morning!! Wasabi is the devil. It tastes like the sauce that Satan would use to SCRUB HIS TOILETS.

  • Patty at A Day in My NYC

    All my senses hurt for you after reading this post! {Hugs}

  • Amie

    I’m looking forward to a follow-up post about how itchy nose hair stubble is, once the poor little guys start to grow back…

  • Tom

    Wasabi is a sinus-seeking missile. I’m sure that through it all, you kept your cool. And if nothing else, you now know how to stop a head cold dead!

  • Shannon

    I do so love this story — because it is something I would do. I am still trying to catch up on Twitter (told you I was bad), but wanted to say it was great meeting you!

  • Middle State/MomZombie

    Shoved a handful of wasabi soaked dried seaweed chips in my mouth while driving home from Trader Joe’s, where I had inadvertently grabbed the wrong package. I don’t learn.

  • mrsmouthy

    Dude, Mater totally does that in Cars II! You’re not alone…

    • Momo Fali

      My husband told our son that I did the same thing that Mater did and he looked at me with pity for the rest of the day!

  • Millicent

    Oh No!!!
    Similar story–last week I bought my kids some dried wasabi peas. They love dried veggies (weird, I know) and I thought hmm…these look yummy. I had no idea what wasabi was.
    We were in the car and I gave all 3 kids a handful (10, 7, and 2). I realized my mistake when screams started coming from the back! I felt so, so bad!
    Fortunately I had also bought juice boxes so we went through a pack fast!!

  • Jana@AnAttitudeAdjustment

    Woah! You’re probably still recovering. I have never tasted wasabi, and have worked to stay far away from it for just this very reason. But I do love me some avocados.

    And it was nice to meet you in NYC! Maybe we’ll cross paths again.

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    […] you recall, I had a little experience in Manhattan a few months ago with some prominent bloggers and the former Editor in Chief of […]

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