Today’s word: sushi
This dictionary defines sushi as “anything with vinegared rice.” My print dictionary (The New Crown Japanese-English Dictionary, 6th ed.) defines it as “vinegared rice with a slice of fish on top.”
I vividly remember the first time I tried sushi. My dad would often go on business trips to New York City and come home late, well past my bedtime. One night, when I was about seven or eight years old, my mom said that I could stay up to wait for my dad, because he was bringing home a surprise.
I was excited that I was allowed to stay up, and wondered what the surprise was. What could it be? Around ten at night, my dad came home, and he put a foil-lined paper box on the dining table. When I opened it, I saw slabs of red, orange, silver, and yellow, with bits of green plastic cut in the shape of how I drew grass on my pictures, and a little plastic fish bottle.
My mom prepared a small plate for me. She carefully took the slices of fish off the balls of rice and scraped off the wasabi, thinking it too hot for a little kid to eat. Then she opened the fish bottle and poured the soy sauce on a tinier plate. My dad explained which fish I was eating. This is tuna, maguro— this is flounder, hirame— this is salmon, sake. I remember him telling me that the egg omelet(tamago) could be an indication of how good a restaurant was, for making the omelet was a delicate process, getting the right consistency and sweetness. Much later, my mom would explain that sushi restaurants have their own terms for their food– soy sauce is called murasaki, pickled ginger is called gari.
When I was young, there were very few sushi restaurants in Philadelphia. When my dad visited New York, he went to his favorite Japanese restaurant to eat and would bring a box for us to share. I had wanted to take the sushi to school for lunch in later years, but my mom wouldn’t let me– she said that the sushi was meant to be eaten the day it was prepared. Whenever my dad would go to New York from that point on, I would always ask, “Are you bringing home sushi?” Thus my love for sushi began.