Page 3 of 3
I came back a few days later for lunch with Sophia, who once worked in a Chicago sushi restaurant. I asked her opinion about sushi's burgeoning popularity, especially among the under-30 demographic. "Well, it's pretty exotic when you're used to eating hamburgers," she said. "But then you get used to eating sushi and it gets boring, too."
It's an interesting theory, but I have my own: Most baby boomers inherited their parents' latent fear of eating anything raw, especially fish. The perception persists in the Midwest anyway that the only "fresh" stuff is locally caught catfish or trout, even though technology has made shipping frozen seafood safe. Younger diners don't have that fishy emotional baggage to taint their palates.
I know otherwise adventurous eaters who still turn up their noses at sushi. But they usually don't like other staples of Japanese cuisine, either, such as miso soup, made with fermented soybean paste. I love the stuff and happily slugged down a small bowl of the cloudy broth, which came speckled with bits of green onion and chopped kombu. It fortified me until my Kang Ba beef stew arrived. It wasn't a stew in the American sense of the word; rather, it was more like an old diner specialty: slices of excellent, fork-tender beef smothered in brown gravy and served with white rice, sliced tomatoes and steamed bok choy. It was like a terrific blue-plate special.
Sophia wanted only sushi and used her chopsticks skillfully and elegantly to pick up the firm little rice mounds draped with sleek strips of fresh salmon and yellowtail. I insisted that she order a Kansas roll, if only to see whether it was intelligently designed. It was beautifully composed: bite-sized circles of nori-wrapped avocado and spicy crabmeat, each adorned with a spoonful of tiny, topaz-colored masago, that pretty Icelandic caviar that just says "Kansas" to me.
Sophia liked the sushi so much at Friends that it wouldn't have occurred to her to order a bento for lunch instead. I wouldn't mind alternating the two. After all, with such an interesting menu, I wouldn't want to be, you know, boxed in.