The food you grow up with

…And what you get used to over time can really surprise you, if you think about it.

I grew up in a fairly typical middle-class American family. We regularly had steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, spaghetti, chicken, pork, etc. etc. for our meals. We ate fish about once a week, a variety of potatoes, fresh tomatoes from the garden, all that good stuff.

Looking back to elementary school, I remember my very first exposure to Japanese cuisine: a Japanese “party” at school to celebrate the Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom festival. In it, we were dressed (incorrectly) in yukata, taught a song about cherry blossoms, and invited to try “vegetarian sushi”. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I fumbled the piece of rolled sushi into my mouth. However, I was not prepared for the salty assault on my tongue, and it was a struggle to politely swallow it down. When asked what I thought of the dish, I’m pretty sure I just walked away in disgust.

My second memory of Japanese food was high school. One of my pals had a birthday party at a Japanese restaurant. I was given Tempura Tendon, a pretty simple dish of rice with tempura served over it, and with little side dishes here and there. Using chopsticks felt like an impossible chore that I undertook with grim determination. At least it’s not raw fish, I thought as I stabbed a piece of tempura pumpkin into submission.

Cut to today. I’m spending time with family that’s come into town and we’ve hit up a hamburg restaurant. While we’re provided both chopsticks and forks and knives, I opt for the former to cut and eat my goodies with. My brother in law comments, “You’re not even cheating once!”

“Cheating?”

“You’re not using your knife at all.”

It’s funny what changes.

You know what else has changed?

We’re going to sushi for dinner sometime this week, and I am very much looking forward to salty seaweed and chilled raw fish and wasabi.

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