I don't normally recommend a movie, mainly because I don't go to the movies much. I have to say I found Jiro Dreams Of Sushi fascinating, especially since I began eating sushi recently.
Basically, it's about an old guy who runs the most famous sushi restaurant in the world. People book reservations two years in advance to sit at one of the 10 stools at his place. It looks like some seedy diner, where a guy named Joe with a three-day growth, a cigarette hanging from his mouth, wearing a sleeveless, dirty t-shirt would be right at home slinging eggs. A waitress named "Cookie" with her hair up in a bun and gobs of make up would serve you coffee as soon as you walked in and say, "What's it gonna be today, hon?"
But this ain't the Bronx, it's located in a Tokyo subway station. Jiro, who is like, 90 years old, personally prepares each piece right in front of the 10 diners – with his bare hands – and then he serves it piece by piece. He then stares at you while you eat it. The thing is, he makes these huge pieces – some with the glistening skin of the fish still attached – and it's a mouthful to be sure. So people stuff this huge wad of raw fish in their mouth and then swallow it, hoping like hell to get it down without having to wash it down with half a bottle of sake, which is apparently frowned upon.
It reminded me of the time in Sag Harbor when my grandfather, Enrico Forcucci, made me and my friend Bobby eat scungilli. We were about 10, and on our way to play spongeball. The trouble was, we didn't have a spongeball, so I asked Papa Enrico for a quarter. He gave us the quarter but said we had to eat lunch before going off to play. He then served each of us a heaping portion of elbow macaroni covered with tomato sauce and scungilli.
I have eaten a lot of bad stuff in my time, but seldom have I encountered something that not only was foul tasting, but rubbery to the point that the mere act of chewing it was painful. The culminating moment -- swallowing it – was a chore so impossible as to make any attempt foolhardy.
We didn't know what to do, because Papa insisted we clean our plates. Bobby came up with the idea of putting it in our napkins and then hiding it in our pants. An hour later we were playing spongeball in the St. Andrews parking lot when the scungilli started seeping down our legs. It was hot, and we were playing on tar, and soon the scungilli started going bad (not that it was any good to begin with). This not only caused an abrupt end to our game, but that Sunday even the most loyal of Catholics refused to park their cars there.
Karen is like Jiro. On the rare occasions when she used to cook, she would stare at me when I took a bite, waiting for a sign that I liked the food. That moment would never come. For example, her broiled chicken, which she serves black on the outside and red on the inside, is so bad I've taken to putting it down my pants to take the same route the scungilli took so many years ago.
Jiro has devoted his entire life to sushi. He works 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and has done so for more than seven decades. He dreams of sushi. Maybe it's just me, but if I spent every waking hour at work I would probably dream of babes.
As soon as you finish one piece of Jiro's sushi, the next one appears. He wraps each piece of fish around specially prepared rice, and tells the camera it should be handled like a "baby chick." So now you get the image of a little live bird on the inside and raw fish on the outside. It's kind of like wrapping scungilli in a piece of Karen's broiled chicken.
If I ever eat at Jiro's I'm going to end up putting a lot of raw fish in my underwear and drinking an abnormal amount of sake. But the old guy stares at you incessantly, so it would be very difficult indeed to not eat the food. I would probably try to divert his attention, maybe hire a scantily clad babe to walk outside the subway station and flash him every time I put a piece of fish in my mouth. Then I would deftly drop the thing onto my lap on its way to its ultimate resting place, in my underwear.
Jiro dreams of sushi. I put scungilli in my underwear. We must be kindred spirits.