There’s always a mourning period; maybe we wear a little extra black and don some ashes, but eventually (a day or two later) we dry our tears and prepare ourselves to step back into the wilds of Netflix.
Our options always feel a bit malnourished in the beginning. We start thinking that maybe Netflix needs a little CPR; some life pumped back in. We begin rhetorically asking anyone in earshot if there’ll ever be another friend quite as lovely as our recently deceased. But after a bit of scrounging we unearth our next great love…the one to sweep us up, away from the worries of work or dishes and those inevitable parenting fouls from earlier in the day.
For us grown-ups, agreeing on a show requires a bit of compromise and a touch of bartering. We love being shoulder to shoulder, enjoying ONE show in unison. So, obviously this means NO soaked and mushy, dripping with romance type stuff. Those all get voted down real quick and sent directly to the guillotine along with any wild testosterone loaded options. So, for the love of Netflix, what does this leave us with??? Well, travel-cooking shows, of course! Yes, I agree, not the most obvious choice, but this week it worked for us.
Last night, we found just the right show; “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having”. We can’t hoard all the glory for discovering this gem…my in-laws may have suggested it. They also find relationship harmony at the intersection of food and travel. The first episode was utterly endearing! The concept isn’t anything original. It’s been done at least a hundred times before, a dozen different ways: a man travels the world, tasting local cuisine…but this show was entirely different.
Phil (the globetrotter and fare taster) has a face that is beyond animated. Like a small child, his expressions lay each and every one of his thoughts and emotions bare for all to see; for all to know. But there’s never a hint of judgment or snobbishness, just sweet, precious warmth and delight in the food and the people he encounters. It’s enchanting.
Episode 1 took Phil (and us) to Tokyo. He ate pounds of sushi (naturally) along with countless other yummy-looking dishes. But, sooo many beautiful sushi creations! They made our mouths water. Those pools of soy sauce mixed with wasabi. I started to drown in my own saliva (as I am now), imagining myself biting into a fresh piece of sushi dripping in that flavorful sauce.
Now lean in close, for I have something somber to share: I have NOT always been a sushi lover…oh no, I actually started out as more of a sushi hater. Over the past 15 years, my sushi evolution has been emotional, embarrassing, at times excessively comical but also VERY redemptive. I haven’t always realized it, but my (sushi) journey has been about sooo much more than just learning to love sushi. All of it makes my present and sincere love for this dish all the more significant. So, to any of you sushi disdainers, let this be your reason to hope. Saying “never” doesn’t make it so. Change is ALWAYS possible, for I am the LEAST likely sushi lover!
When I think back on my early sushi eating days, I can’t help but giggle. Well, it starts as a giggle, but then it grows till I’m doubled over in silent convulsions; tears streaming down my cheeks.
The following is my sushi story. It’s ALL true. Together we’ll laugh, we may cry (probably we won’t), and then we’ll laugh some more. Here it is: Many, many years ago, in a land far, far away (California) I went on a sushi date. No, it wasn’t with my sweet Adam. This historic date was pre-Adam. Being married for nearly 12 years makes thinking back on pre-Adam days feel like summoning a distant memory out of a dark and heavy haze. It seems like nearly all my memories are Adam…except this one!
This guy loved sushi so of course, he took me on a sushi date. He expected that I’d instantly love it the way he did. He likely never considered that the opposite might be possible. In my family, raw meat was a no-no; a breeding ground for bacteria and intestinal cramping! Naturally my first sight of sushi completely disgusted me (on the inside). On the outside, I smiled and acted agreeable.
I was TERRIFIED! The pieces, which are meant to be taken in a single bite, are HUGE! There’s something that should be said at this point…I have an infant-sized mouth. Stuffed full, my 8 pound, 6 ounce, little baby-mouth holds maybe one full tablespoon of food. I always marvel when I see others taking multiple bites of anything before pausing to chew. I’m absolutely NOT capable of such ambitiousness. So, sushi bites were a legitimate struggle! Each piece filled my mouth completely; from right up against the inside of my teeth, all the way back to my hangy-ball (a very technical term for that “ball-thing” that hangs from the deepest part of a person’s throat). And if having a small mouth didn’t complicate things enough, I’m also “gifted” with VERY excellent gag reflexes; a winning combo for a girl attempting to eat big, GIANT bites of food that already repulse her! Cue the gagging!
The textures were another problem for me…the bites were all soft, smooth and slippery, the way I imagine eating slugs might feel. There I sat, surrounded by happy people, but I was turning green, working against my body’s heaves. My annoyed date watched from across the table as I choked over each bite, pretending miserably to enjoy myself. In the end, we left the restaurant with him very, VERY pissed to have dropped 50 bucks watching me (virtually) throw up in my own mouth for an hour.
Yes, my date was an immature ass and that night I felt embarrassed and rejected. Like I said before, I laugh (hard) now, but it took a long time for that memory to lighten into doubled-over tears of hysteria. As I look back, I’m convinced God had HIS hands all over that night and my gag reflexes. Maybe my gagging was the physical manifestation of our incompatibility. My sushi-hating, a nail (one of many) in the coffin of that relationship.
Now for the redemption portion of my sushi saga:
Years later I met my extraordinary Adam. As irony would have it, he not just LOVES sushi, he’s lived in Japan. I was (of course) 100% intimidated by all of Adam’s international exposure and culinary knowledge. I was the girl who secretly LOVED American cheese as a kid. What in the world did I know about truly lovely food?? Honestly…not a whole lot! But pretty soon we were eating French, Vietnamese, Thai and…Japanese food (sushi) together.
He never resented me for my stellar gag reflexes. Our sushi dates were always filled with silliness. He’d laugh as I gagged, then after forcing my bite down, we’d laugh together. He made me feel brave. With Adam, I never felt ashamed of being me (gags and all). Maybe even more meaningful, he never made me feel unworthy of the money he spent on our dates; always a gentleman. Just like falling in love with Adam, falling in love with sushi felt natural.
I never imagined that I'd EVER say this, but some days I actually crave sushi! I stand before you today a reformed woman; a 100% recovered sushi gag-aholic. When I think of sushi, I’m reminded of two very valuable things: 1. impossible hurdles aren’t ever as impossible as they appear, and 2. all things are redeemable (even if the thing is only the size of piece of sushi).