My wife and our 10-year-old daughter enjoy eating sushi. There’s a locally-run place nearby, not part of a chain, where they go at least once a month. For various reasons Thursday has become a regular sushi evening for them. I have never joined them, partly because I do not believe that sushi constitutes a proper meal. Nor does tapas. Both of them make for a nice snack but neither of them contains enough actual food to justify the use of the word “meal”. I appreciate that our different points of view may be gender-related. Even before we had local restaurants selling rice dishes made with raw Japanese fish, my wife and I disagreed about how much food has to be involved to constitute lunch or dinner. For her, and for many other women, lunch could be a bowl of soup and a roll. For me, soup and a roll is a starter. There has to be something else, even if it’s just a sandwich, or you’re skipping a meal.
My views on sushi have developed into more of a catchphrase than a point of major disagreement: “It’s not a meal, it’s a snack”. My daughter joins in with this now. If she and my wife are having sushi she will say things like, “Yes, and then we’ll come home and have our dinner” although she has also defended its status as a full meal. She has told me, “If you have the sashimi, the Maki roll and the miso soup there is enough to eat”. The first time she said anything like this I was distracted by the thought that at her age I wouldn’t have had a clue what she was talking about. Aged 10 I had never heard of miso soup, Maki rolls or sashimi. I had never even eaten rice in a restaurant.
I am a great believer in catchphrases, which is why they have a category of their own on this blog. If someone tells me he’s having sushi for dinner I will generally say something along these lines: “Right, but you’ll pick up some chips on the way home, because sushi’s not a meal, it’s a snack.”
Here in West London tapas bars pre-date sushi restaurants. I recall a night out in 1999 at a tapas bar in Richmond, a birthday celebration for the boyfriend of a work colleague. Having first eaten tapas in Spain in the 1980s I have never embraced the idea of eating them in this country. This was the first time that I had spent a whole evening eating tapas in the UK. The food was okay but nowhere near as good or as cheap as in Spain. When the food bill came round it came to £25 per head, and I was still peckish. I got out some cash, ready to pay my part of the bill, but the birthday boy decided to treat us all, for which I am still very grateful. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. I took the train back to Turnham Green station and, not for the last time, stopped off for a bag of chips on my way home.