Saturday, February 24, 2007

Trust Your Sushi Chef


Sushi is my favorite food. After being an overweight teenager, I've become, as an adult, pretty health-conscious. And I like to think in terms of "perfect" meals. These are meals that include all the essentials: protein, carbs, good fat, the right portion-size. And sushi is on the top of my "perfect" meal list. It's my pre-marathon carbo-load meal, the perfect post-surf or snowboard recovery meal, a great date food, on and on. I try to eat sushi at least a couple times a week.
The motivation for writing a post about sushi is not just because I like it, but because I think it's a metaphor for something. I'm going to try to figure out what it is as I write this post.

The topic caught my attention two days ago when I was showing my students a sampling of digital storytelling work Marco Torres' students have produced. We watched a story called "Sushi." In summation, the story is about a sushi restaurant opening in the San Fernando valley, a place rich in culture, but not Japanese culture. The restaurant brings it. The story starts with a play on the word taco. Tako being Japanese for octopus, not the meat, beans, and tortilla the people in the film were expecting when they ordered. I loved the way the joke led into a story about a new business in the community, a sharing of culture, and I think by default (there's a lot of Japanese culture in Hawaii) sparking a reciprocal interest in other cultures, a reminder to not take for granted the small things, like food, sport, game, story, that bridge cultural, generational, and geographical divides. (As I'm writing this I'm also preparing to Skype with my partner teacher in S. Korea, and I'm being quietly thankful for the tools and the people that have made this partnership possible.)

In many other relationships in my life, sushi has been a meal over which much bonding has taken place. Hakata in Silverdale, WA is the first place I go with my buddy Bryan Beale when I'm there for a visit, which is not often. Sushi Studio in Long Beach, CA is where I go with my cousins Janelle and Paul, my favorite people to travel the world with. Tukkurei Tei in Honolulu was the first restaurant our friends Brian and Jill took my wife and me to when we moved here. Standing in line for half-price sushi at Sansei in Waikiki became a regular Monday night event with our friends Jack and Michael. And $1 sushi hour at California Beach Rock 'n Roll Sushi has become the default we're-too-tired-to-cook meal. And recently, on a plane trip back to Honolulu from Los Angeles, my wife and I gave up our seats together for a woman and her little girl who seats were apart. She asked several people if they wouldn't mind moving, and to our astonishment, everybody said no. We couldn't believe it and were quick to accommodate. After the flight, she found us on our way to baggage claim and invited us to visit the sushi restaurant she owns in Venice Beach, CA.

So now I'm wondering, why sushi? What about this particular meal carries so much connotation for me. I think it has something to do with the sushi chefs. Everything depends on them. Everything is made by hand. All the ingredients are delicate. And what makes sushi memorable are the little things that individual chefs do to make their sushi unique: a dab of wasabi hidden in the rice, mango and jalapeno paired in a roll, using a blow torch to sear fish, publishing a menu as a comic book. It's care, creativity, delicacy that sushi represents. Yet, there's a simplicity that remains intact. And no matter how much you eat, it's good for you.

6 comments:

Bruce Schauble said...

Waipuna Sushi Manoa. Ono and cheap. Punahou parent, too.

Sarah's Space said...

Hey Mr. Watson I just wanted to thank you for the idea of sharing my podcast with my friend. It made her cry. :) She absolutely love it!

jstevens said...

There is also the satisfaction of leaving a sushi bar happily full yet not gluttonous. It must be the small portions....

zachary said...

The talk of sushi reminds me of Washington. Longing for Japanese food and stuck in the food court of an Arlington, VA mall, I stumbled upon the Kabuki sushi stand. My head said this is going to be bad, but my heart said eat it. The fish was disgusting. The texture of it was soft, slimy, and thready. My god, the fish probably came from the Potomac. I quickly threw it away and ordered fried plaintains from the South American stand.

Never buy sushi from Virginia.

Jun said...

Nice riff on sushi. BUT, as an English teach, I thought you should know: "..was the first restaurant our friends Brian and Jill took my wife and me to when we moved here."

Booyah! I love sushi.

C. Watson said...

Thanks Jun (for reading).