Etiquette Adjustment, This Time From the Sushi Bar

Just when you think you’ve got Tiffany & Co’s Table Manners for Teenagers committed deep to the vault of your mind, you get a thumped on the head by your sushi chef. For those who don’t know, sushi bars are like water along Ventura Boulevard, as common as a traffic light. If you live in L.A., chances are you frequent a few.

My husband and I were recently eating at our favorite spot in the San Fernando Valley, a place where we always sit at the bar and know all the chefs by name. To say we’re connoisseurs would be overstating it, but suffice to say, we know the difference between sashimi and sushi. After sitting, we removed the wooden chopsticks from the paper sleeve, separated them and proceeded to scrape the splinters by rubbing the sticks together. Just then, our sushi chef, one who we’ve always received good nature from and truth in choosing the best fish, leaned over the bar and whispered, as if imparting expected etiquette to children in a house of worship. He told us that the particular act of tapping or rolling the sticks together is considered unrefined. At the best places, it can be deemed insulting, as the superior restaurants only use quality chopsticks. “Because you are high class people,” he said, nodding and smiling.

How long had we been doing this? Well, I don’t know, forever, maybe. We were the vulgar Americans in our own backyard, all proud of ourselves that we’d discovered the joys of mint leaf under Halibit Fin. Paint me mortified.

Thanks, Guro (or however he spells it — I’m sure I’ve typed an incredibly obscene Japanese word instead of his actual name), for caring enough to share. Consider us enlightened.

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue.


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