Puma Paw & Acts of In-Law Appeasement

My last visit to Japan also served as my first meet-and-greet with my to be in-laws.  Despite a nerve-wracked red eye flight that had me in tears for fear of not being able to impress them the trip went over smoothly.  My okasan (mother) was cordial, hospital and ALL ENERGY.  She effortlessly showed me all the sights of their hometown Kamakura while simultaneously planning me a robust birthday celebration and cooking every meal.

I think of meals as three a day.  Like a story there’s a beginning, middle and end.  However, were I to follow this metaphor in my own cooking each meal would hold it’s own and have a stamp of importance on it.  As such, I’m a sloppy chef and cook to consume, whereas my okasan is the real deal.  She cooks to create.   Create happiness.  Create satiety.  She does this to make those she serves happy and seeing the eager stampede to the dining table every time we were called to sit down, I can attest to her good-great-best work.

She’s a powerhouse, and, although we have a burgeoning and lovely relationship, I’d do anything to make her proud.  So here, in Boston, in the safe confines of my own test kitchen, I’ve been making active efforts to become better versed.  So when the opportunity arose to enroll in a sushi making lesson, I immediately signed up.

Thankfully so did dear pals Moira and Courtney, and the three of us made way for Sea to You Sushi in Brookline, MA for a 2 hour hands-on course in the delicate art of sushi-rolling.What struck me most was the patience demanded.  Not only delicacy, but thoughtful attention to the design of the roll.  We learned, after some botched attempts that throwing any combination of ingredients into the center of a roll does not a sushi make.  In addition to paying reverence to the rice and the rolling of, I had to concern myself with flavor combinations, strength of handling and aesthetics.

Here are some tips our sweet instructor imparted on us:

  • Do not use too much rice.  Too much will make for a bulbous roll that will not close seemlessly.
  • Do exert some muscle in sealing said roll.  She advised that we make a “cat paw” when closing.  A “puma paw” with a jumbo roll.
  • I learned how to lay ingredients, both artfully and for maximum taste.
  • Less is more was instilled in the lot of us.  Everyone seems to want to LOAD IT UP.

Finally, upon examination by the sushi master, it was discovered that Moira, Courtney and I made an egregious amount of rolls.  Because I’m a perfectionist I thought to try and try until I got it right.  Moira and Courtney were more adept to the task and worked quickly.  We were absorbed in the task.  It reminded me of my Japanese mama.  Working away.  Frighteningly concentrated  – poised to prepare.

The end result?  Eh… but I have a spring board with which to try more.  And I garnered some extra points on my last International Call home.