Sunday, 22 January 2012

Ramblings: Chopsticks

I once had a bad experience with sushi. I gave up eating fish not long afterwards and after reading this tale you may not be surprised to learn that the man I was dating gave me up too.

It was 2008 and I’d trekked down to London with my boyfriend of six months, Peter. (see: We’d been visiting friends of his near London and a single girl he knew, who was away visiting family, had let us stay in her over crowded flat. As we cleared the 30 or so cutesy soft toys off the bed to go to sleep, we both remarked that maybe that was why she was single. No man could have maintained an erection with all those pastel coloured toys watching. She also had a photo wall which consisted of snapshots of her and her friends pulling “I’m mad me!” faces in various antipodean settings.

We spent a day in London and Peter was authoritative, striding about manfully showing me places. I’ve been to London many times before but I pretended to be awestruck. We went to the theatre to watch a play which he found bleak but I adored for its cynicism and then the search began to find somewhere to eat. Peter loved to share experiences with me and was keen that I loved everything he loved. He’d show me DVDs, play me music and cook me elaborate meals, aiming to please like an overexcited puppy. He was always crestfallen if I didn’t like something and as ever, I always struggled to hide my disdain for things I hate. He was grouchy when I pouted throughout “Napoleon Dynamite” (I loathed that film), horrified when I picked gingerly at a curry which was too coconut laden for me and winced when I declared I couldn’t find any joy in listening to Sousa marches. He was never deterred though and when he did find things we both liked would be ecstatic.

His ideal was that two people met, absorbed and appreciated each other’s interests and assimilated them. My view of love is that two people are very much individuals and if they like the same things then that’s good but you need to retain your individuality. He wanted the meetings of planets, I was happy with being two satellites circling each other gracefully with the occasional stylish collision.

He decided I just had to try the most amazing sushi place in Soho. I declined and he tried, as ever to persuade me. I pointed out the following: I hate ginger, I hate soy sauce, I hate raw fish and am not too keen on rice. I also reminded him that actually, I don’t really like Japanese food at all. He bartered and wheedled and nagged me into it by persuading me that there would be sumptuous dishes on the menu which were suitable for even the pickiest vegetarian. I followed on, trying and failing to keep an open mind.

We entered the restaurant and were seated, much to my horror, at a refectory table with 3 other couples. I’m friendly enough, on a good day, but to be honest, I wasn’t keen on sharing my tea with half of London present. I maintained a forced smile as I manoeuvred myself onto the large uncomfortable bench, trying to ignore the man in a suit sat next to me.

I looked down and noticed there was no cutlery, just chopsticks. Peter was amused by my reaction.

“Try them! It’s fun!”

I had a failure of happy facade.

“I think that the chopstick has been superseded by another new invention: the knife and fork. I’m not eating my dinner off of a stick. I know everyone else is but I don’t care. They’re just being pretentious.”

Proper cutlery was dispatched and the couples either side shot me withering glances as they showed off their chopstick prowess to prove how amazingly clever they were. The menu was unfortunate. Everything on the menu contained either a) raw fish b) meat c) ginger or d) soya sauce. I put the menu down and did my “I-told-you-so” face. Peter scoured the menu, panicking and suggested the vegetable curry. I pointed out the small print at the bottom: “Cooked in beef stock”

I ate a lettuce leaf and half an avocado with plain rice. They insisted on dispensing some gloopy brown stinking of ginger in a little pot which turned my guts and I pushed it away. I ate it slowly and my face said “Listen to me when I say I don’t like something.” We ate in silence. The bill for his one course and my lettuce was over £50 and I tutted and sucked my teeth. I enjoyed the pizza on the way to the station very much.

I still can’t imagine why we split up. Maybe it was because he never listened and I was churlish and sulky. Two people with fundamentally different views on relationships will never make a happy blend. Whatever the case, we were certainly a bad combination. I avoid sushi bars still.

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