Strategies for getting people to try sushi?
I'm not the kind of person to force adventerous foods on people. As evidence, I'm not coercing my parents into letting me take them to the Ethiopian restaurant today, as much as I want to visit. However, I believe that everyone can like sushi... it's just a matter of convincing them. So how can this be done???
First, and most importantly, start them somewhere really good. One of the very few things that I've found Emeril Lagassee to have said on his show that I think entirely true is when people say to him "but I don't like scallops" he says "you've been eating bad scallops." So, start them with good sushi. Then, begin with cooked items. Raw scares a lot of folks but there is so much in traditional (not to mention new style) sushi that is cooked and much that isn't fish/seafood at all. Smoked salmon instead of fresh, cooked shrimp instead of ama ebi, real crab, etc.
When I was introducing my younger brother to sushi, we started with maguro because he loves rare steak. Super rare. Really good tuna has a lot of the same qualities as a perfectly prepared cut of steak, so it was a natural move for him. Then we stuck to similar things for a while (hamachi, for example)...and then we were off an running. Have fun!
I'll agree that going to a GOOD sushi place will help. But I will disagree with the assumption that "everyone can like sushi". I for one don't. I've tried and tried. My taste buds just aren't that subtle and don't respond to the Zen of clean, water-like flavors. Other than ahi (well, that's sashimi), but my gateway food to that was carpaccio, so you gotta thank the Italians.
I think my tastes are similarly "unsubtle," for lack of a better term, but I think sushi has become one of the more disputed foods among the masses in terms of what's "good." If it tastes good to me, it's "good," regardless of whether the cook used the wrong kind of vinegar or had 3 extra grains of rice. Obviously there's reasonable boundaries, but how discriminating a person's tastes are will affect how they react to what you might find "good." I let the experts argue the subtle differences and just focus on enjoying my food.
I think spicy tuna rolls are a good way to go as well. You don't see the cut of fish like you would with tuna, or god forbid squid. That may prove a deal-killer for first-timers. I think ccbweb offers some good points as well, especially with the cooked crab. The americanized rolls exist to let people who might not normally try sushi give it a shot with lower "risk."
1. You can lead a horse to water but you can't get him to enjoy the view.
2. Most traditional sushi does not have sashimi. Start with those.
3. Sashimi is best with hot Japanese rice. Start them on sashimi with hot rice.
IMO, Ethiopean food is more adaptable than sushi (I love both) - as long as you skip injera (a lot of people who dislike ethiopean food do it for solely the bread). Many restaurants serve their food on regular plates with silverware. And when presented that way, their food looks more familiar than sushi will ever do. And I also think their flavors are not overly exotic. Anyone who likes meat likes ethiopean methink.