Sushi is one of my favorite ways to dine. Beyond the cuisine being offered, sushi imparts an experience of much greater depth. From a hand massage with a hot table side towel to using chop sticks to drinking hot tea, the entire experience of eating sushi is unique and involving. Yet is is often misunderstood that sushi is only a gastronomical experience. Sushi is much more than fish being sliced and rice being steamed. There is a great profoundness to sushi.
After years of eating sushi, the only knowledge I gathered came from slim two-fold menus positioned atop japanese restaurant dinner tables. Maybe my stomach was to blame for the lack of research or maybe post-sushi-mortem induced too much laziness for my active culniary curiosity. Either way, I had never looked beyond the epicurean literature of sushi.
As I started learning more about sushi, I found that the meals I spent so much time enjoying had a message of great depth. Originating in China, sushi existed out of necessity. Sushi began as a preservation technique that involved rice fermentation greatly extending the life span of caught fish. In modern times it has intertwined with philosophy and religion establishing its artistic and creative roots that resembles the calmness of the most peaceful Zen paintings. Beyond the aesthetic pleasures, the message of sushi strives for a deeper meaning: to connect man and nature, transcending the realm of duality and separateness.
Sushi, in its most basic and traditional forms, represents the earth. Land and water are attributed from its elements of rice and fish. The balance between the two represent the harmony in nature. The art of sushi is in its respect and gratefulness, creating a most beautiful display of honor and poise. Each sushi creation is a tribute to the balance of nature.
It is in this respect that sushi attempts to transcend the detached world of man and nature. Each piece of sushi praises the forces that support man, thus recognizing our role in the interconnected play of the world. Through the design, care, and technicality that sushi artists and chefs harbor, the lives of the fish and plants that came from the oceans and soil of the earth are respectfully honored. The realization of the consciousness of each component of sushi gives love, admiration, and thanks towards the earth.
As man partakes in this experience, he is participating in the gastronomical ceremony of the connectedness of man and earth through sushi. He is praising his dinner for it is the earth he is eating. Without the earth, he would not exist. Sushi is a transcendent experience that involves grace in every bite and every moment.
In previous blogs, I have mentioned the importance of changing the way food is perceived. Food must be seen as divine in order to understand our connection with the world. Sushi does just that. The connection between man and nature is exemplified in the artful display of balance and respect for the consciousness of the earth that supports us.
PS if you’re in los angeles and love traditional sushi, make it your prerogative to spend an evening at Sasabune