The sadly necessary introduction:
Please forgive the clumsy introduction. It is, like many things that involve sushi, a necessary evil. I am not, what they call in the business, 'equity.' And really only about 20 people know who I am or who I may be. That, strangely, is not what's important. It is worth noting that I am not a critical food reviewer. Outside of eating and writing I have zero qualifications to be one, and a strong argument can and has already, in fact, been made that those two skills are not actually skills, but rather things I happen to be able to do. The possibility, the opportunity came about when a friend commissioned me to write this piece. Many thanks to him for his inspiration and for taking a chance on a very little known writer-er. Before we delve into the review I thought the following would be beneficial to both the reader and myself. May it serve as your guide, or Itamae as It were:
The guiding element:
As critical food review is a new area for me to explore I found it necessary to abide by some principles, namely, that a competent food critic is one who can apply food and food writing to certain rules; the obvious problem being what are the rules?
I will not list the rules as that's insulting to you, the reader. They will emerge, some may require teasing out a bit more than others, but it should not be difficult to understand what is going on, where the structure is coming from and what it is becoming, but it is worth taking a minute and examining the rules as function.
Now, while rule-following may seem restrictive, I assure you that it is quite the opposite. It requires creative interpretation of the rule(s) and is not easy to say whether or not I am actually applying the rule (of course I am, as it is part of the framework to guide critique). Furthermore, who's to say that I am, in fact, actually not following the rule(s). After all, application of a rule is not a technical, formal affair. Many times it involves simply not doing something, or preventing something from entering the conversation, or even forcing something into the conversation. In applying a rule you have to account for reality and in reality a rule exists if only to be reducible to conformity and interpretation. To sum up, I did not set rules only to break them as I explored this new avenue of critique, but to challenge the institution of food critiquing as I see it and feel it needs to be challenged and possibly even reinvented. It's also very much worth noting that 'the institution of the food critic' is one I have no idea about, so basically, I'm just throwing around concepts and adding 'food' here and there. We'll see what happens.
My intentions were to take a tertiary approach: Ranking three different classes of grocery-store sushi (7-11, mid-level grocer, and finally a high-end, insufferable Fox & Obel type grocer). I settled on mid-level grocer. The reason, well, three separate 7-11's and not one of them sold Sushi. If you can't have the low-brow, why settle for the high?
I compromised by embracing the middle. I figured this would be the most pertinent, as it would be the arena with which most of society can relate. Also, let's face it, if you're buying sushi at a 7-11 you're an asshole and it should go without saying that if you shop at one of those high-end grocers you're an asshole and a moron. Really though, after the first attempt I found no reason to further explore grocery store sushi any longer.
As I set out I was not looking to present another interpretation of grocery-store sushi, but rather further add to the discussion and understanding of grocery-store sushi as it is currently perceived.
Subsection, The Purchase:
I cannot say I was expecting much at the grocery store, regarding sushi. I certainly was not, but I was surprised to be so underwhelmed. There were only a few selections: Hawaii Poll (sic); California Roll; Tuna Roll; Spicy Tuna Roll; Misc. Sushi Sampler. A lot was left to be desired.
With only a few options, I figured this would be easy, but I entered a rather contemplative state, a most unexpected thing. Really, a terrible thing. I was so turned off by my options I just stood there staring at them for at least 10 minutes. It was akin to the feeling you used to get at the video store and you cannot decide which movie to rent and every time you pick one up you end up putting it back for a different title only to return to the previous movie 20 minutes later and picking that up and then putting it back for yet another movie you selected just five minutes earlier; a pattern that repeats ad nauseum until you become so anxious and embarrassed at the length of time that you've spent at the video store that you ultimately leave with nothing just so as not to encounter the clerk who has been watching your frantic movie search in jest for the last 45 minutes now. That's what this felt like, only there was no movement, only me, standing, frozen and staring at sushi, attempting to pick the least offensive choice.
Somewhere around the 10 minute mark it finally dawned on me that I was looking at this far too particular when, in fact, what it demanded was a broader approach. My obsessive focus on what to choose overriding the act of choosing, my inability to see the sushi as other than 'object' would rule out any possibility to move my analysis into social practice. So, I said 'fuck it,' grabbed the Hawaii Poll (sic) and checked out.
Subsection; The Eating:
At this point it matters very little what the method of eating is. There are those who will tell you there is a certain way to eat sushi and a certain way not to eat sushi. I find that insufferable. Specifics like those lead to a revolt in critical analysis. Things needed to be tidied up there and they were. This instance is no different, and my decision to forego this portion of food analysis may be one of my greater contributions. Really, what are we accomplishing when we cannot reduce eating to eating?
The Sushi, First as Object:
It would be irresponsible of me to not actually talk about the sushi itself though. With much resistance, I have decided to include this as this is an instance where the 'object' becomes a necessary point of focus. Sushi, for many, is largely representative of the failings of ideology. Here is where I disagree with that common perception. Sushi is nothing if not raw, unfiltered ideology. It is dangerous, yes, but it is not a failure. Those who disagree with me often cite that danger is itself a failure (see Roe v Wade, I might be citing the wrong case here). Danger is, in fact, not only not a failure, it is a purity. Meaning it exists despite itself and despite its relation to others around it. Yes you can argue its relation to soy sauce, wasabi, and ginger make it inherently dependent as an object, thereby negating its purity. But should you believe that, does sushi not include those very three things you use to argue against its purity, is it not those things that are dependent upon sushi? Again, this is where specifics fail you and why a broader approach is necessary. You cannot look at sushi without looking at soy sauce, wasabi, and ginger.
The Sushi, Now as Subject:
The Big Finish:
This might seem reductive, but really, if you've been paying attention you should not be expecting much more than 'it was good' or 'it was bad.' Certainly there demands to be more insight than this, but not much more, as this approach does not concern itself too much with whether or not the sushi was indeed good. The sushi is only about itself, it is its own narrative. Sushi transcends 'object' status to 'subject' status regardless of its quality, making it an affront to common sense.
That being said, the sushi was awful. The rice was dry and mealy. The tuna and salmon could not even be tasted. I questioned whether or not there was actually fish in there. A question I would receive an answer to 20 minutes after I finished eating and would continue to be reminded of for the next two-plus hours. That more than anything is why 'the sushi is bad.' Normally you don't have to wait that long before tasting something you just ate, nor do you still taste it for as long after you ate. A pleasant aftertaste goes a long way towards deciding a good meal, but it should not go a long way. I did not vomit the sushi, should I have done so I would indeed need to write another piece about that (lucky for us both). Then again I have vomited only once since I was twelve years old and that was due to food poisoning. Vomiting requires certain learned muscle actions taken by the body and should one go long enough without using those muscles the memory is often forgotten. I believe that to be the case with me. A simple case of forgotten memory sparing me intermittent moments of violence throughout my life. I have not always been grateful for that and am unsure where I stand on that issue after eating that sushi. Should it remove the unpleasant taste I dealt with for nearly three hours would a few moments of wretchedness be a fair trade-off? I would like to believe so, but it's been so long I find I am not qualified to answer that question.
I do, however, feel qualified to offer the following advice:
Don't buy shitty grocery store sushi. It tastes like shit and will likely either have you vomiting or wishing that you were if only for the hope that it might bring some satisfaction into your life.
N.B. I'm single and derive pleasure from very little in life.
I do know a few things though. Chief among them, spend more than $5.99 on your sushi. In fact, only go to a proper sushi restaurant. Some things demand they be done correctly and with the right pieces. Some things demand the extra money be spent. Sushi is this. It is also more than this, but more than anything else, it is this. Grocery store sushi, while dangerous as ideology is sadly dangerous in other ways too.