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Ody's Country Meats

Dreaming of sushi


Sun, Jul 2nd, 2000
Posted in

In a perfect world, I would be a travel writer. My passport would be scuffed, worn and filled with stamps and illegible signatures. I would have a carry-on suitcase, just the right size for a planeís overhead compartment. It would always be packed and ready for quick and spontaneous getaways to far-flung and mysterious places whenever the assignment desk called me up.

Because travel, for me, has always been about discovery. Itís about seeing things for the first time and coming away a bit changed because of them.

Earlier this month while visiting a town a couple hundred miles north of San Francisco with a population of around a thousand, I was struck by the rich cultural choices that seemed available.

There was a coffee place that roasted its own beans every morning up the hill from my friend, Raulís house, where I was staying. The fumes curled into the early morning air and then settled over the fresh smelling redwood valley and I swear the closer I got to that smoking chimney, the more alert I became. You donít get that kind of mental stimulation from the pungent smell of ethanol.

What really set this small town apart though from a town of comparable size in this vast Heartland of ours was that the one restaurant in town specialized in sushi. Thatís right, raw fish. Now, raw fish has never struck me as something to get all worked up about. But that was before I tried it.

I think what we were served that evening was something called maki-sushi, which is made by wrapping raw tuna, eel, or salmon with a sticky kind of rice into a seaweed-wrapped roll. It was cut into large bite sized pieces and served with soy sauce and wasabi, a spicy green horseradish spread with a powerful taste.

The hippie-looking waitress sat the platter in front of us and the colorful sushi pieces glistened like childrenís trinkets. Raul, who is worldlier in these matters, instructed me on what to do next.

"Pick up the sushi with your chopsticks and smell it," he said.

"Okay," I sniffed, "now what?"

"Take a good long look at it and think about it for a moment or two," Raul said. "Sushi is a contemplative cuisine. "

I thought about the sushi for awhile and eventually Raul nodded and told me to dip it into the soy and wasabi and then stuff the whole thing into my mouth.

I did as I was told and was immediately astonished by the sushiís amazing taste and texture. This was too good to be true! Why hadnít I tried this years ago instead of scoffing at the mere mention of it? The sushi stirred up strong and profound emotions in both my heart and my tastebuds. It made me feel warm inside.

"I want more," I said, poking my chopsticks towards the platter. I was feeling reckless. I didnít think about parasites, bacteria, or raw sewage in the ocean. I wanted more sushi.

"Take it easy," Raul said. "You need a strip of gari."

Gari, I learned, is pickled ginger root which is used by sushi eaters to freshen their palate between bites."

I got that out of the way, and worked my way through a few more pieces of sushi. Raul and his wife were hastily doing the same. Within minutes an empty platter sat in front of us. I felt strangely at peace and I didnít even care that the sushi meal had cost almost fifty bucks. It felt like a bargain.

A week later, I found myself back home in the middle of the country. I was getting back in the swing of things, Midwestern, and had put the thought of sushi on hold, knowing that it would be a two-hour plus drive just to track some down.

Last Sunday at Art in the Park in Lanesboro I was headed in the direction of the pork burgers when I happened to see that the so-called Asian Food Society of Lanesboro was serving vegetarian curry. That sounded interesting and a little exotic and I bought myself a bowl. In spite of the fact that it wasnít sushi, it was still some pretty tasty stuff.

I asked around and found out that Peggy Hanson of Lanesboro was the mastermind behind the Asian Food Society. She told me that about a year ago she and Frank Wright had talked about how nice it would be to have an Asian Restaurant in town.

"I told Frank that if we had a Vietnamese restaurant here, Iíd never have to leave," she said.

Peggy went on to say that she hoped by starting the Asian Food Society and creating a food-friendly atmosphere in Lanesboro, a family might take note and be motivated to move there and open an Asian restaurant.

The society she told me was a loosely structured group of forty some people, who have gotten together pot-luck style several times over the last year bringing their own home-cooked versions of various Eastern cuisines.

"Thereís never been as much garlic in the Sons of Norway Hall as the night we cooked Thai food," Peggy laughed.

Regarding the Art in the Park food venture, she said they could have sold twice as much as they had prepared. "I thought it would be a good opportunity to make people a little bit more aware of some of the wonderful things in this world." Peggy said.

And suddenly I found myself thinking about sushi.

And I got to thinking, too, that maybe, just maybe out there somewhere is a family who might someday decide to open an Asian restaurant in the food-friendly town of Lanesboro. And just maybe, that family might know something about the preparation of sushi.

I can almost see the menu now.

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