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Jews and Sushi

November 22, 2018 | by Yona Levi

At the average wedding, the sushi bar often has better attendance than the chuppah ceremony.

There is something fishy going on in the Jewish world. At nearly every simcha and celebration, Jews are stuffing themselves to the gills with creatures that once had gills. We, of course, are talking about the sushi sensation sweeping the nation. It is washing over the Jewish community as Jews show their affinity for fins.

Obviously, there is more to a simcha than sushi. Most Jewish celebrations also feature other fundamental fixtures like coat-room chaos, controversial table assignments, family photo fiascos and family members who may not be on speaking terms but who are on hora-dancing terms. Speaking of dancing, most Jewish celebrations these days have the ever-popular and sometimes annoying dance motivators. While dance motivators may sometimes be necessary at a Jewish event, eat motivators are never required. If anything, eat dissuaders should be used to curb buffoon-like buffet behavior and to prevent glaring and galling gluttony.

Speaking of eating, the sushi bar certainly has become a main attraction. At the average wedding, the sushi bar often has better attendance than the chuppah ceremony. At bar mitzvahs, sushi bars are so ubiquitous and crowded that the event should be officially renamed the “Sushi Bar Mitzvah.”

There is nothing particularly Jewish about sushi except for the consumption of room-temperature fish, which arguably is reminiscent of lox, sable, herring and gefilte fish. Sushi, however, is different because it is not cured, pickled or otherwise manipulated. Sushi, like an overly honest friend, is completely raw.

That said, sushi arguably has a few similarities to classic Jewish seafood. Herring is served with toothpicks and sushi served with chopsticks. Gefilte fish is served with horseradish and sushi is served with wasabi. Lox is served with excessive and unnecessary carbs (bagels) and sushi is too (rice).

“Sushi” is a Japanese word that literally means “marinated rice” but generally refers to thinly sliced fish served on a bed of rice. Technically, when the same fish is served without the rice, it is “Sashimi,” and when it is combined with other ingredients into a roll, it becomes “Maki.” (Yes, when it is rolled and served to kids with macaroni and cheese, it becomes Wacky Maki.)

Maki rolls are fun because of their colorful names like the Volcano Roll, Dragon Roll and Rainbow Roll. For some reason, thus far Jews have not created Jewish-themed Maki rolls. One could argue that the time has come for sushi rolls such as the Three-Day Yontif Roll, Rainy Day Sukkot Roll and Machatanista Roll. Other Jewish-themed rolls might include the:

  1. Mechitza Roll (salmon and tuna separated by a wall of seaweed paper);

  2. Challah Roll (braided and served in pairs);

  3. Purim Roll (served with kosher Sake until you can no longer tell the difference between salmon and tuna);

  4. Eruv Roll (served with a string around it);

  5. Aufruf Roll (served to the groom a week before his wedding);

  6. Kiddush Roll (served on a platter with toothpicks and a pushy crowd behind you elbowing for position);

  7. Mezinka Roll (served only after you marry off all of your kids);

  8. Chanukah Roll (served eight straight nights in front of a street-facing window);

  9. David & Goliath Roll (served via slingshot);

  10. Tuna Fish Sandwich Roll (served by your parents every time your family goes on vacation and there are no kosher restaurants in sight);

  11. Matzah Roll (served when you want to make this night different from all other nights);

  12. Tu B’shvat Roll (served in a treehouse);

  13. Meshuga Roll (served on toasted rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing);

  14. Pachech Roll (served with a constant stream of complaints);

  15. Hashkama Roll (served only at the crack of dawn);

  16. Nudnik Roll (served with questions like “What’s your Adjusted Gross Income?,” “Do you really think your toupee is not noticeable?” and “Is your cholent store bought?”);

  17. Etrog Roll (served in a small white cardboard box and wrapped in protective foam);

  18. Chutzpah Roll (served with a little too much audacity);

  19. Chelm Roll (raw rice served on a bed of cooked fish); and

  20. Bubbie Roll (served with a mixture of love, care and “Why aren’t you married yet?”).

Sushi is meant to be eaten with chopsticks, utensils that are not really conducive to “essen and fressen.” Chopsticks require too much precision and effort and, for the uninitiated, impede mass consumption. For this reason, some Jews prefer eating sushi with a fork and knife or, if socially acceptable, a shovel and funnel.

Final thought: If every day you seize the chance to eat fish from the Cyprinidae family, then you truly are putting the “carp” in carpe diem.

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