It seems like I will never tire of eating jamón but as we neared the end of our time in Spain, and especially since we’ve been back, I’ve been dreaming of sushi. In fact, I almost always crave sushi after being away from Vancouver and reading Mel’s accounts of Daiwa and the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo were not helping at all. Neither was the medicore sushi plate I had the other day. So I re-watched the trailer for a movie we saw in the spring – Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Just because I like to taunt myself, and because some day we’ll be able to take another vacation.
This film, if you didn’t see it, is the ultimate in food porn. There are long, lingering shots of sushi master Jiro Ono molding rice with his gnarled hands, brushing glistening pieces of tuna or staring artfully off into the distance while thinking about his art. It’s beautiful and made me want to head out to the first sushi place I could find, never mind booking a flight to Tokyo so I could eat at this restaurant.
But that kind of perfection doesn’t come without sacrifice and the film spends a lot of time on the sub-themes of responsibility, repeatability and dedication to one’s craft. Jiro is some eighty years old and has been making sushi his entire life – every day he goes to the same restaurant and makes the same sushi and every day tries to make better and better sushi. The result is that his tiny sushi bar (Sukiyabashi Jiro) in a subway station is now a 3 Michelin-starred restaurant and one of the best sushi restaurants in the world with a long wait list.
He never takes a day off, never mind a vacation and both his sons have worked in the restaurant into adulthood. But where the younger son left opened his own sushi restaurant in another part of town, the older one is stuck in a strange limbo of having to take over the family business (because it’s tradition) and having to wait for his father to retire. Jiro jokes about having been a bad father and not seeing his sons much except in the restaurant, but it’s equally clear that he thinks he’s done the right thing as it is his eldest son’s unhappiness. To be perfect you have to remove all the variables; friends, family, hobbies, distractions, even decoration and serving staff in the restaurant are almost non-existent.
It’s impressive stuff. I like to sample a little bit of everything, in food as well as in life, so I admire but can’t even begin to understand this kind of focus. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Also about sushi…time to go get some.