If a real friend is the person who tells you when you have bad breath, then what I'm about to tell you will make me your best friend; whenever you eat sushi, you are embarrassing yourself. That's right, the abominations you commit to your California Roll bring shame upon your whole family. In fact, you may as well commit ritual disembowelment right now. (Especially if you're Asian.) Actually, you'll probably mess that up too. Just keep reading.
Are you one of those people who rub their chopsticks together? Do you proudly explain to your rube aunt from Kelowna that this is how you get rid of the splinters? Dude, look around you. This isn't Quest for Fire. You are not Survivorman Les Stroud, trying to get some kindling to smoke. You are in a sushi-ya on Broadway.
"But what about the splinters?"
The next time you're in a Japanese restaurant, conduct this experiment. Unsheath your 'sticks, wrap your lips around them, now joust with your uvula. If you so much get the slightest pinprick of a sliver, I will personally take you to the emergency room... in Kyoto, Japan.
When you rub your chopsticks, understand that you're using flag semaphore to signal to the world that this joint is so low rent they can't even afford splinter-less chopsticks.
If you can't refrain, just do it beneath the table really fast. If your fist pounds against the underside, so be it. With any luck, people will assume you're engaging in roughly equivalent socially inappropriate behavior. Don't worry. The Japanese obsession with dining etiquette is exceeded only by their sexual perversity.
You use too much. I don't care if you like the way it tastes. Go raise your blood pressure at McDonald's. In a sushi-ya you are dealing with artists who are easily offended.
Tell me something. When you're out at a fancy restaurant, and the waiter places the plate before you, do you automatically reach for the salt? Because when you do, you reveal that you were raised in a barn. Your actions are saying, "I'm just gonna assume that this dish -- that someone went to school to learn how to prepare -- will be so insipid, so bland, I have to make it snow sodium before I shove it down my gullet."
Do you think the chef in the kitchen sampled the soup and said, "Hmmm, could use a little more salt, but I'm going to let that genius at table five add the finishing touch."
You like salt. I get it. But don't disfigure the sushi chef's creation by testing the absorbency of the rice like you're re-enacting a tampon commercial. You're better off sipping Kikkoman from your drinking glass, and passing it off as a pint of Guinness.
Now I can already hear some of you whining: "Leave me alone. I'll eat it the way I like."
Sure, go ahead. Be the ugly American. Be the ugly Canadian. But the next time you're sitting in the subway, and the fresh-off-the-boat refugee next to you removes their socks, and starts cutting their toe nails, before you shoot them a dirty look, just remember; that's you!
DOING IT RIGHT
Okay, enough criticism. Here's how to do it. Take a seat at the counter. When Hiroshi (yes, that's his stage name, because he's actually Korean) presents you with a platter...
Don't move. Don't reach for the 'sauce. Don't break the 'sticks. Just stare.
You want to wear the haunted expression of an Incan high priest who is about to sacrifice a gorgeous virgin on the altar; a mixture of wonder and sorrow. Contemplate the koan: "Too beautiful to eat, too beautiful not to."
Suck wind through your teeth, slowly shake your head. Look constipated, as if you are trying to push something out. Finally blurt out, "It... is... EXCELLENT!"
As you partake, close your eyes, and quietly mutter obscenities under your breath. If talking dirty at yellowtail doesn't sound like your cup of tea, try weeping softly. Nothing says "your fatty tuna is soooooo buttery" quite like mascara running down your cheeks. In fact, any unmitigated emotional expression is game. I've seen salarymen in Tokyo slam their fists into the counter shouting "Bakayaro!" (Translation: Dumb-ass motherf***er!)
In fact, skip your meds, and let all your personalities come out. As you careen maniacally from hysterical cackling to growling panegyric lust, don't be surprised if your sushi chef starts plating you super-exotic dishes that are waaaay off menu like puffer-fish gonads or marinated Pygmy foreskins (these are okay to chew loudly).
When you leave, bow a little as you walk backwards, as though you shart yourself and you don't want anyone to see, (bonus points if you actually did). You don't have to speak Japanese, but seem apologetic and embarrassed at having been lulled into revealing so much of your hidden personalities.
The next time you come in, it'll be like Cheers, where everybody knows your name. And as you belly up to the counter and you see someone rubbing chopsticks, resist the impulse to suggest suicide. That American tourist is bound to misinterpret your good intentions. Leave it to the professionals by sharing this article.
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