Often times, I feel surrounded by people who are either unenlightened about food, don’t have the same appreciation for fine dining, or frankly, don’t care. This doesn’t only apply to my friends, but also to most of the adults in my life. Regardless of who it is, being in this position gets pretty lonely. However, I am lucky to have my sister, Julie and my brother-in-law, Alan (the ones who introduced me to the world of foodies) to discuss fine cuisine with.
The most common controversy I stumble across with ordinary people is sushi. What is sushi? The definition of sushi is “a Japanese dish consisting of small balls or rolls of vinegar-flavored cold cooked rice served with a garnish of raw fish, vegetables, or egg.” Although sushi may just seem like a piece of fish slabbed onto a ball of rice, it isn’t at all that simple. Making sushi well is extremely difficult and those who choose to learn this craft require years of training. The amount of dedication, precision, and talent needed to execute the art of sushi is phenomenal. An recognizable example of a real sushi chef would be Jiro Ono. Jiro Ono is a Japanese chef, and the owner of one of the most famous sushi restaurants in the world, Sukiyabashi Jiro. You may’ve heard about this restaurant on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, and been appalled at the fact that eating at Sukiyabashi Jiro would easily cost $350 USD per person. Despite the high price, I believe that Jiro Ono has every right to charge that amount.
To start off, the rice in sushi should not be soggy or dry, it should be made with the perfect texture, have the proper amount of vinegar, and the grains should be in tact (A common mistake is over mixing the rice when adding rice vinegar). The craft of preparing fish is a whole ‘nother (long) story; if I attempted to explain the amount of technique required to execute this skill, this blog post would never end. Besides, what do I know about cutting fish? However, I do know that traditionally in Japan, you need three to five years of training to actually touch the fish. Temperature and timing is a key factor when it comes to sushi. The rice should be body temperature (which is why you see chefs repeatedly rolling it in the palms of their hands) and the fish should be room temperature. Additionally, don’t be fooled by the common remark of, “Mmm…The fish is so fresh!” In most cases, delicious fish is not fresh, but is actually aged for a day or two.
Next time you go to out to eat sushi, consider all the factors of great sushi I stated. Don’t be so quick to criticize the expensive price on restaurants, because they probably have a valid reason for charging that much. Is your definition of “good” sushi, really that great? Is your poke bowl from that hyped hipster plaza truly “to die for”, or is it really just a bowl containing sloppy-cut cubes of fish (that have no distinguishable taste from one another) drenched in a mysterious sauce, in hopes of masking the horrendous, dry rice beneath?
Being introduced to the foodie world at such a young age is a blessing, but it does come with some cons. It’s small things like having a limited amount of people to talk to, and constantly hearing false remarks about food that make me cringe. The worst part is not being able to say something, whether it’s pointing something out or correcting something they said wrong. On the bright side, I always have my two foodie guides, and a few other people in my life that appreciate food as much I do. I hope that in time, my constant nagging to my friends will become effective and that one day we will have mutual feelings about cuisine.
My brother-in-law, Alan, felt that my version of this blog post could have been more poetic. I guess this is my way of having him be a part of my blog. Here’s his version.
“It’s a special kind of irony when you feel lonesome when eating out with your friends. My sister is somewhat of a fine dining connoisseur, and, as her frequent dining companion, I couldn’t help but develop a more refined palate. You know that feeling where everything and everyone around you slows to a crawl, and suddenly you’re the only one that’s conscious and awake…
I know this feeling all too well for it rears its ugly head upon hearing my pre-adult companions squabble about their culinary adventures.
Oh; you love the sushi at Kabuki? Oh; you don’t eat the raw fish though. I see; you don’t like fish in general… Do you know what sushi is? I’m surprised my friends still mention food in my presence. I’m so used to communicating the refined culinary speech of my sister and her friends. Often contemplated the outcome were I to really test their food knowledge. How do you feel about the terribly textured rice at Kabuki; What do you think of the way the Itamae (sushi chefs) there treat the sushi like toys on an assembly line rather than unique individual samples of the chef’s artistic expression?”