We would like to welcome the newest member of our sushi family. Her name is
Once in a while, when I’m thinking that things are tough, or when I’m letting myself fall into some kind of complacency, or when I need to prod myself into adjusting my world-view so that I can be inspired again to keep marching in the right direction, I go to my restaurant and savor a sushi roll; the one with the peanut butter in it.
Maryland blue crab meat
goat milk cheese
The Importance of Peanut Butter
In fifth grade at an exclusive elementary school in New Haven, Norberto Ortiz, one of my best friends, delivered a breath of fresh air. In a school where little alligators on our tennis shirts expressed our solidarity, his choice of fashion stood out like a totem pole. That year, his jacket of choice, that even the hottest days of summer would not convince him to take off, was a shiny red plastic Michael Jackson one, the same one that M.J. wore in his “Beat It” video. His lunchbox was of the same design as his jacket; it glistened, big, red, and plastic with a semblance of the singer, pushing out of the center like he was trying to escape. Norberto’s lunch- box contained an ever-changing menagerie of food treasures that my mother was oblivious to the existence of: Twinkies, Oreos, Cheese Doodles, Fritos, Doritos, Pringles, Ruffles, Ding Dongs, Fruit Roll- Ups, Goldfish, Cracker Jacks with the little prize in the box, every good food that this ten year old could ever desire.
My lunches were a source of constant internal struggle for me, and I felt that I was at war with my clueless mother who made them. I didn’t expect some sort of utopian lunch that Norberto had. All that I wanted was the type of lunch that everybody else had: peanut butter and jelly or a ham sandwich; perhaps an apple to go with it; that simple; and maybe some Kool-Aid too. What I got for lunch was quite different: little rice balls filled with cooked fish, a bento box of chicken and vegetable fried rice with a pickled plum, a sandwich with eggs and vegetables, sushi – holy crap, no!
By lunchtime starvation was setting in so I had to eat my lunch, as much as I despised it for being different. It made me furious that something that I hated so passionately tasted so delicious.
“Please,” I would think to myself, “I hope nobody sees me eating my lunch because I know people are gonna think I’m weird.”
“Mom, I only eat peanut butter sandwiches at school, okay?”
Dr. Phuey had streaks of white in his helmet of jet black hair. He was a French Vietnamese scientist who lived next door with his French wife, Teresa, who was a good friend of my mother’s.
“An Asian with a French accent, what
a curious thing,” I thought to myself, not thinking that it was at all odd that my parents spoke English with a Chinese and Japanese accent.
Dr. Phuey and I were in West Haven again, on a rock pier, fishing for whatever would come our way. We loved fishing, but we rarely caught anything; this had more to do with our lack of knowledge as fishermen, I suspect, than the lack of fish along the coast.
Usually, after a few hours of catching seaweed and driftwood (while everyone around us were pulling up whales, practically), Dr. Phuey would unwrap his favorite sandwiches that he had prepared especially for us. I’d always eat it, smiling gratefully at Dr. Phuey as if to say “this is really yummy” while trying hard to enjoy it but never quite succeeding. What made Dr. Phuey’s sandwich so unusual was that it was an English muffin stuffed with ham and…PEANUT BUTTER!
As I was eating a rice ball during lunchtime the next day at school, I was grateful that my mother didn’t pack me a Dr. Phuey special instead. If she had, I think I would have died, at the tender age of ten, from disgust and embarrassment. When I have children, I hope to teach them to appreciate the unusual. I hope they appreciate the uniqueness in themselves and others; above all, I hope that they learn to appreciate peanut butter and ham sandwiches.
There are endless possibilities for food, as there are for our lives, if we would only make the effort to look around and change our perspective.
Pictured above is Chef Luis who prepared the Mishima Sonata better than I ever could.