My folks are great and they’ve reached that charming age when pretty much everything they say is funny - and they don’t even realize it.
Recently my daughter got married. It was a quiet affair with only close family members in attendance. They picked a Japanese steakhouse where we would go to for small celebratory dinner. And that is when the fun began.
Growing up we had a fairly pedestrian diet. Mom didn’t venture too far into any sort of ethnic cuisine. Chili was about as spicy as it got, and that was pretty bland even by our Midwestern taste. Vegetables at our house included fresh carrots, corn on the cob, peas from a can, and baked potatoes and that was pretty much it. My mother admits without shame that she’s never liked vegetables and like George H Bush, she refused to eat broccoli. The rest of us just ate what we were served.
Flash forward to the wedding feast. When my daughter announced that we would be eating Japanese, Mom kicked into full bravado-mode.
“They’re going to make us eat sushi, aren’t they? That’s ok…I wouldn’t mind eating sushi, I’ve never had sushi, but if that is what they’re going to make us eat, then I’ll eat it...” as the rest of us are trying to convince her that they’re not going to make her eat sushi. She’ll get chicken…she likes chicken…and she’ll get steak…she likes steak…and she can have shrimp…she likes shrimp. They grill the food…really! We promised that there wouldn’t be anything weird that will land on her plate. She didn’t believe us but she wasn’t going to say so outloud.
Now I know this is going to be fun. We will gather around the grill at the Japanese Steakhouse to watch the flying knives show. We will oooh and we will ahhh…and I will watch my parents try really really hard to hide the fact that they’ve never stepped foot in an Asian restaurant before.
My daughter had pre-warned the restaurant that her Grandpa is allergic to seafood. No problem. They will prepare his meal in the kitchen so that it’s not in contact with the seafood that will be part of the show. He picked chicken & steak. Good choice. That’s what I had and it was phenomenal.
First up – appetizers. We ordered salted edemame beans that the rest of us ate with enthusiasm. Mom – I love you – but the horrified expression on your face when they placed a bowl of soup in front of you was classic.
“What’s this? I didn’t order any soup”.
“Mom….they give a small bowl of soup to everyone – it’s ok.”
“But I didn’t order any soup…what are these spongy cubes?”
My daughter chimed in explaining that was tofu. (Oh my dear….she doesn’t look convinced that they’re edible.) But she sips the broth and decides that it’s not all the unusual….until she her fourth spoonful:
‘There’s a minnow in my soup! Bobby…look at this! They put minnows in the soup!”
That is when I about died laughing.
My daughter tried to reassure her: “Grandma that’s not a minnow – it’s a mushroom.” She didn’t believe her. We had to have several of us look at it and come to a group consensus – yes, that’s a slice of mushroom. Really, just a mushroom…we pinky swear, it’s a mushroom. Although she claimed to believe us, I’m pretty sure she set the bowl aside and waited quietly for the next course.
The rest of the meal was, by comparison, uneventful. The flying knives show was great. Our chef made a heart-shaped blob of rice that was served out on spatulas faster than a speeding bullet. He made a tower of onion rings that smoked like a volcano. Mom ended up ordering shrimp & chicken that she admitted was quite tasty. The grilled up mixed veggies included carrots, celery & some others that had never before met my folks palate. They declined shots of saki – wise choice there. By the end of the meal I was quite proud of them for having ventured out of their comfort zone – gastronomically speaking.
All in all, they did great with their first experience at a Japanese Steakhouse even if it was probably their last.