Tuesday, January 10, 2017

High/Low: Food Documentaries

Jesus and I watched two food documentaries this weekend. In one, a solitary man and his small team of apprentices serve single pieces of sushi to an intimate group in their small Japanese restaurant. In the other, hundreds of Chinese restaurants dotting highways across America serve their take on a dish we've all heard of (or eaten): General Tso's chicken. The juxtaposition between the delicate art of sushi-making and the widespread popularity of General Tso's was fascinating to me, a person who appreciates the combination of high and low culture (pairing designer tops with thrift store jeans, or eating Kraft mac & cheese on fine china).

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
I've heard of this documentary, but finally found the time to watch (and not judge it too harshly). There's a fine balance between honoring and respecting your craft and living so deeply in your bubble that you aren't quite in touch with reality. I believe that Jiro's sushi is some of (or the) best in the world, and I think the way he approaches his business is laudable, but I'd be lying if I said I don't like sushi from convenience stores. What I found most interesting was the family dynamics at play in Jiro's restaurant - of his two sons, the younger (Takashi) choose to branch off on his own, leaving the older (Yoshikazu) to apprentice and inherit their father's business, as is tradition. This means Yoshikazu is still waiting for his chance since Jiro (at 91) is still doing his thing, while Takashi already has his own Michelin-starred restaurant.

The Search for General Tso
Who knew all the things we don't know about General Tso? I always assumed he was fictional, like KFC's Colonel, or an exaggerated story, like the Earl of Sandwich. And the dish itself? Well, I usually get fried rice or lo mein. The movie gives us some backstory on General Tso himself, and if he had anything to do with the creation of his dish (he didn't), then we hear more about the dish's many variations. The bigger point of the movie was to delve into the familiarity Americans have with Chinese restaurants - everywhere you go, there they are - and I could relate to knowing the comfort of an "all-American" dish like General Tso's.

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