Jiro Dreams of Sushi (while I dream of Coca-Cola)

I don’t have much experience with sushi.

I first started eating it when I lived with my dad in Atlanta. Even then, it was mostly tempura rolls and the occasional piece of eel or shrimp on a tiny ball of rice. We always went to this one guy who had a place on the perimeter. A tiny place in a strip mall across the way from a Smoothie King and Sports Authority.

I loved the way soy sauce tasted with coca-cola. I still do. I don’t know what it is, but I love it. Granted, I don’t drink much soda anymore since I found out it would eventually turn me into a diabetic, but the memory is there. Sushi and coca-cola. Maybe it was the sweet and salty. The more I learn about food — especially asian dishes — is the complexity of flavor. Like fatty fish accompanied with something really salty or acidic. The combination of salt, fat, and acidity are such important qualities of a good dish.

Hannah and I had a day off and decided to go see “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” at the Laurelhurst Theatre. I was so giddy when I came across someone talking about it. In being the nerd that I am, I set out to see it as quick as possible. I’d seen Anthony Bourdain eat at Jiro’s restaurant (which is located in the basement of a Tokyo office building) and watched as he considered it the best sushi experience of his life.

Soon after I saw a trailer for the documentary. I’m reluctant to use the term “food porn” because for one, it’s over-used. Jiro’s quality of sushi is over-the-top perfection. Perfection being an idea one can never attain, to most great chefs.

The documentary captures the essence of Jiro’s passion. Stemming from his childhood when his parents pushed him out of the house when he was only a kid — to having children and currently, in his 80′s, still making some of the world’s best sushi. It aims at the conflict between Jiro’s oldest son, who will soon be taking over when his father can no longer work.

I found myself giggling throughout the whole documentary because it was so encouraging (needless to say inspiring) to see one man and his cooks, day in and day out performing the same task perfectly and efficiently. They show us how they buy fish and who supplies them with the extraordinary rice they use. (If you know anything about a good dish, it is that rice is important. If your rice sucks, your dish sucks.)

If you were to look at cooking, and the way Jiro prepares his sushi, it is mainly about three things: ingredients, technique, and timing. Each piece of sushi is made from the best piece of fish, cooked/prepped to taste at its most optimal and served at just the right time and temperature. This kind of food has to take a lifetime to learn. And even then, according to the philosophy of Jiro, there is still so much to learn.

Seeing one man dedicate his life to a craft is important for me to see. So often my generation hops around from job to job, wanting to take a bite out of everything. We are usually not interested in investing in one thing (and learning to do it really well). And maybe that hopping around is to discover this talent — but to see a man love something so fiercely — it’s encouraging.

If you can find a way to watch this film, I urge you to go see it. But be warned, you will want to eat some major food afterwards. Preferably some good sushi.

I understand we are not all able to do what we feel we are best at, but if you are one of the lucky people who can, fall into it deeply.

In the end, it all comes down to this.

You must fall in love with your work… – Jiro Ono

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