Happy Mega Ultra Dragon Crunch Roll

Last week, my wife and I decided to get sushi as a Friday night treat. Or rather, I decided I wanted sushi as a Friday night treat, and my wife loves me enough to accompany me to a place called Octopus. It’s exactly the kind of restaurant you’re imaging. One that plays trance music and bathes diners in purple mood lighting.

My wife and I had just finished placing our order when two young bro-types sat down next to us. They were the kind of people I once mocked, but who I now envied for their Zen-like commitment to fast cars, lifting weights, and babes. Oh, the things I could accomplish if I only had a fraction of their discipline!

Anyway, I discerned from the furrowed brow and grim look on one of the bro’s faces that he wasn’t very familiar with Japanese food. “You like tempura, bro?” asked his friend, clearly the more seasoned of the two. “It’s like fried shrimp and stuff. It’s good.” His friend shrugged. “How about sushi, bro? You like crunch roll? It’s good.”

The less-experienced bro eventually had enough of his friend’s pestering and stammered, “If it’s good, it’s good,” leaving his friend to decide for the both of them.

The American in me was happy the bro was venturing out of his comfort zone and willing to try whatever crazy dish his friend ordered. However, the Japanese person in me was appalled that the bro was going to conflate “crunch roll” with “sushi.” The former is an abomination, a distended tube of dry, bland rice wrapped around a piece of shrimp with too much batter and drenched in some kind of disgusting sauce. I was offended that such food was being masqueraded as “sushi.” What would people think of Japan?! Sushi consists of raw fish sliced to perfection and carefully resting on well-seasoned and flawlessly cooked rice. It’s a skill — nay, an art form — that takes years to learn and a lifetime to master (if one is ever so fortunate).

I was so busy being indignant that I didn’t see the waiter bring out our food: the Sensual Pleasure (a spicy tuna roll topped with more spicy tuna then smothered in fried onions and orange goo), the Rainbow Roll (a California roll wrapped in colorful sashimi slices), and Crispy Rice Topped with Spicy Tuna (a cracker-like sliver of burnt rice topped with spicy tuna and razor thing slices of avocado).

Yes, I realize the irony of the situation, but such is the tension of being Japanese-American. I knew my wife and I weren’t eating authentic Japanese cuisine, but the American in me loves new and crazy variations of old world favorites. Food that bears the unequivocal stamp of “Made in the USA.” So what if the sushi in front of me wasn’t sushi at all? It was tasty and hit the spot. Isn’t that what matters most?

Diversity and trying new things is all well and good, but it wasn’t enough to appease the Japanese person in me. He’s stubborn and caused quite the commotion over this so-called sushi I was about to consume. “Traitor! What would your ancestors think!? Many shames!!!” I was eventually able to placate him by pointing out that it’s okay for me to consume these abominations because I knew they were abominations. It was justified, like when the thief steals bread to feed his family. That didn’t make any sense, but it shut the Japanese person up long enough for me to stuff way-too-big pieces of Sensual Pleasure into my mouth.