Tuesday, July 04, 2006

But I Don't Like Sushi

So why am I at a Sushi bar?

I’ve mentioned my addiction to peer pressure in the past. I have decided it is an addiction for me. Some people drink, some do drugs, some sniff White-Out… I succumb to peer pressure.

I started out surrendering to peer pressure, even against my mother’s sage advice. She always encouraged me to be different and to go my own way. Those words have turned around and bitten her more than once, but I think she still likes me just like I am.

I submitted to peer pressure the most when I was in college. I should just consider my college days to be my “I’ll-do-whatever-I-need-to-do-to-fit-in” days. I threw the parties. I bought the booze. I went into debt that took 20 years to get out of. I was, in a word, stupid.

I thought peer pressure would ease up as I got older. Then I met Brent Gambrell and the pressure only intensified. On the day that I met him, he handed me a serrated bread knife and instructed me to climb a magnolia tree to cut branches to use as decorations for a reception. At the time, I didn’t know what a magnolia tree was, and he had to point it out to me. So, what did I do? I climbed up that tree and cut magnolia branches, what else? Was he a fun guy I wanted to hang out with? Yes. So.I.Did.It.

Brent is also one of those people who want you to experience whatever it is that he is experiencing… and he expects you to enjoy it just as much as he does. I cannot begin to tell you how many times we have been in the kitchen talking (while he is concocting something as off the wall as lemon-pepper-crusted Salmon/Spam patties with a touch of rosemary, sage and thyme) when I’ll turn to him to say something and find myself with some food particle shoved down my throat. Did I ask to nibble on that piece of braised alligator liver? No. I did not. How in the world is it that I have eaten a piece of fried blue whale gizzard? Why, I stopped by Brent’s house, that’s how.

So… after having known Brent for 13 years now (dear Lord, how is THAT possible?) there is no fighting him when it comes to enjoying new adventures together. Whether I want to enjoy them or not is a moot point.

Take for instance a couple of weeks ago. Brent and I attended two separate birthday bashes for people turning 30. Yes. 30. They are still babies. 30. Geesh. The first was an All-American type cookout with burgers, dogs, Indian chicken, chips, cake, etc. It was fun. It was a lunchtime party and it was blazing hot in the middle of Tennessee summer. We were sweating before we got out of the car, but we got to see a lot of people that we had not seen in some time. We both RSVPed to the birthday couple and let them know we were bringing each other. No. We. Are. Not. A. Couple.

After eating and helping clean up, we headed to the Artisan Festival being held here in a local park. It was fun and I was able to find THE PERFECT GIFT for my friend Amy. She will love it, and I am so proud of it. Now it was dinner time and on to 30th birthday party, number two. At a Sushi Bar.

“I don’t like Sushi.”

“You’ll love this place.”

“I don’t like Sushi”

“They have other things there.”

“It’s a Sushi bar”

“Yes, they have great food.”

“I don’t like Sushi”

“You can get other Japanese cuisine there”

“Have you watched the Iron Chef? I don’t eat Japanese cuisine.”

“Japanese food is good.”
“There will be an eyeball floating around somewhere… and the spine of a squid”

“Squids are spineless. You’ll come, you’ll eat, you’ll enjoy.”

“I don’t like Sushi”

“We’ll have Sake”

“I don’t like Sake”

“It will be great”

So I went right on in to the Sushi bar and did not order sushi because I Do Not Like Sushi. I ordered a teriyaki chicken rice bowl, because it wasn’t sushi. We both ordered Cokes to drink and Brent ordered, you guessed it, sushi.

The salads came… because everyone gets salad and Miso soup with their Japanese food. The salad looked really good. I would have probably enjoyed it a lot more, except that the salad came equipped with chopsticks and no forks. No. Forks. Hello… I’m sorry… I’m an American… I need a fork. I stared at the chopsticks and I looked across the table at Brent.

“Here… let me show you how to use these. You’ll love it. You have to eat Japanese food with chopsticks”

“This isn’t Japanese food… this is a salad. I need a fork”

“You’ll do great. Here let me show you.”

“I hate sushi”

For the next few minutes Brent tried to contort my fingers in what was the equivalent of a Second World War torture technique as he attempted to instruct me in the proper use and handling of the chop sticks. After the cramping of my fingers subsided and I determined I would not have to sue Brent for the onslaught of carpal tunnel syndrome, I found myself in a moment of heightened frustration where I attempted to stab a cucumber with a single stick. I realized I was wasting my efforts. Finally, a waiter passed close by and I grabbed him.

“I. Need. A. Fork”

He was kind enough to bring me the PROPER EATING UTENSILS and by then the salad was soggy, having been immersed in a soy-based vinaigrette dressing for about 45 minutes of my finger calisthenics. I pushed the salad aside and went for the soup. Amazing, don’t you think that the Japanese embrace the spoon, but not the fork? I think there is a conspiracy here. I think Fork Lovers should UNITE!! And does it help that your friend is wielding his own chop sticks as if they were extensions of his fingers and he had spent countless years as a Japanese ambassador… or better yet… spy? No. It does not. His only purpose at this point of the meal is to eat the things that are floating in my soup. Things that he assured me were supposed to be there.

Finally, the main course arrives. I have a bowl of rice with chicken and some vegetables that didn’t really look like food I would eat, but I picked around at it enough to make a dent, because I love Japanese food so much. Brent’s food… did I mention he ordered sushi?... arrived on a wooden board. What is that about? Can we get a plate, here? Geesh. Apparently, this is a cool way to eat your food in Japan. Yep. Little clumps of rice and raw fish that he maneuvered rather well using his chop sticks. It made him look as comfortable as Jackie Chan drop kicking the nearest bad guy off a 500 foot building.

I, however, am proud to be an American. I stuck with the fork and was able to actually pass the food from the plate to my mouth. But at the end of the evening, the truth remains the same…

I don’t like Sushi.

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