Dearest Rachel –
At the risk of leaning hard against the fourth wall, I’m fully aware that you will never read a word of these letters; they are, rather, a way for me to memorialize you before the potential world that is the internet. Would that everyone had met you while you still walked the earth; however, that no longer being possible, I need to tell everyone about you. About everything you were, and everything we shared and enjoyed together – be it music, or art, or travel…
…or food. Look, I’m not the sort to go on Instagram and show off the latest ridiculous creation I’ve purchased from Starbucks like some folks do. Presentation is all well and good, but it’s the taste (and let’s face it, the company around the table) that truly makes the meal. You can’t convey that in a picture, or even a video. And even if they do manage to digitize flavors in the future, there’s still so much that even that would be missing from the.. . picture? Would we call it that?
And that’s why I need to tell you about today. You know, whenever you would be away from home, either at a ladies’ Bible study retreat, or a convention, or (as happened every month for a week the last four years or more) visiting your folks, Daniel and I could never find it within ourselves to visit a restaurant that you enjoyed going to with us. The basic thought was, “It wouldn’t be fair to Mom,” (yeah, it was usually Daniel raising the objection more than I would). Now, there were also some things we would also do together that I would find myself telling him, “Don’t tell your Mom about this,” but that had more to do with throwing things out as opposed to any experience that you might miss out on.
Of course, I’m telling you all about these things now, figuring you’re not going to hold it against me at this point. Not to mention, there’s no way to bring you back to enjoy these experiences with us (and, I suspect, whatever you’re enjoying right now would put anything we’re doing on earth to shame, so there’s that).
Well, today’s story takes us to our favorite restaurant of all… Sushi Station. I’ve been telling you about how many restaurant gift cards Jan has been finding throughout the cleaning process, and since there are more cards for this place than any five other places combined, she’s expressed a curiosity about why we liked it so much, and requested gift cards for it whenever anyone was stumped for a present for us.
So, we figured, why not break out one of those cards, and just show her?
And that’s what we did, honey, after putting in a full morning of clearing away boxes of videotapes from around the television pedestal in the family room (and honestly, honey, there’s a lot of these that we already have in digital format at this point. I can’t imagine we’ll ever get to them, even considering my resolve to digitize everything you’d expended so much time and effort in collecting in the first place). Her husband Scott had also been here, but left to look for LED lightbulbs to replace in the fixtures we currently would use halogen bulbs in if we had any, and was merely going to pick Jan up at the end of the work day, around 3 o’clock (he’s an early riser, I understand, with a schedule to match).
We got there at about 1, and found ourselves waiting for a table. Despite the wait, she seemed fascinated by the conveyor belt with the plates of sushi on it, and the shogi screens separating each table and group of chairs as part of the Covid protocol. So, while it might have felt like rather a wait for us, she hardly seemed to notice how much time had gone by before we were seated.
Of course, then we had to explain everything to her. And I do mean everything, right down to how to eat the rolls, the nigiri and even the edamame (I demonstrated with the chopsticks, but we eventually gave up. I actually didn’t know the Station has forks available for us gaijin who don’t know any better). I think we tend to forget just how alien some cuisine can be to certain people. To us, this stuff is as normal as anything else, but it’s not intuitive to someone raised on straight Western food.
Not that we didn’t include something “Western” in the order, since their Texas Roll is basically shredded chicken in a deep-fried tempura roll and covered with barbeque sauce.
Oh, and that’s another thing. For once, I really didn’t properly calculate how much to order – or what to order, quite honestly. Since I didn’t know what she would or wouldn’t like, I asked for a little of everything I liked, to see what might or might not interest her. She and Daniel were discussing his experiences with Japanese food in general and apparently wasn’t aware of my order. So when it all came up, and the chef handed stuff to us over the conveyor belt, she was somewhat aghast at the number of plates.
And it was at this moment I was wondering if I might have gone a little too far.
But they wasn’t any backing down from here. I explained as best I could what was in each piece or roll, and she did what she could to try pretty much everything. I don’t think she’d be likely to order unagi, in particular, again, but she was clearly proud of herself for eating the whole piece.
Most of the other stuff, however, she met with a level of enthusiasm I have not seen in… well, I really don’t know when. It’s tricky for her to do her little ‘happy dance’ that she does when she finds money while sitting down, but she certainly managed. And she seems to enjoy it so much, I held my tongue about her cutting the rolls in half with a folk and eating it in two bites – I’m sure that my eating one of those immense Hanako rolls in a single bite looks every bit as funny to her as her fork-split California roll did to me.
Halfway through the meal, she got a text from Scott, telling her he was on the way over. Wait, so soon? He’d said 3, and it was only a little after 2 yet. She asked me for the address, and instructed him to meet us at the Station, which he (eventually) did – another thing I’d forgotten was that the place closes between lunch and dinner, and he wouldn’t be able to get in unless someone let him in. Which we did.
And we began the lesson over again, in a slightly truncated form. And while he just isn’t the type to show energetic enthusiasm like Jan, we could tell he liked everything he tried as well (and, truth be told, we were grateful for his appearance – we had, I confess, ordered waaay too much for three people to handle).
Sweetheart, I have to tell you, it did my heart so much good to watch the both of them react so well to something that we loved so much, but they had never tried. This is the joy of taking others out, and I am so looking forward to doing this more and more over time. I told them, and I’ll tell you: seeing them enjoying this experience as much as they did, I think I haven’t been so happy as this since you left.
I do still wish you were here to have been a part of this.
But one day, once we’re all together again, you can ask them about it, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to give you all the details. Hey, maybe, since I hear everything we love on earth is somehow availed to us up there, we might be able to reenact the event – who knows?
Just brace yourself for the dinner conversation, honey – I think Jan might want a few words with you about some of the things you saved… and where you stored them. Actually, I’d be kind of curious about that, as well.
Until then, remember… I love you, I miss you, but I’m carrying on.
P.S. I did say I’m not the Instagram type, but Jan suggested making this a blog post herself, so she should know I’d get a picture of them enjoying the place.
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