ritual of friendship is the best way to describe my Monday nights for the past many years. A group of us gathers at Body Balance Yoga Center at 5:30 p.m. for a hatha yoga practice. Our common interest in yoga brings us together, and the heartfelt sense of community can be discerned from the first om of each class all the way through savasana, or final relaxation. After our practice we walk up the street and around the corner to Ami Sushi for dinner together.
Sometimes there are a dozen of us, sometimes only two. We are younger; we are older. We are nurses, teachers, firefighters, counselors, retired, business owners, biologists, artists, surgeons, administrators, interpretors. We are all students.
Our post-yoga outing used to be called "Girl's Night" but over the years one man, then another, has been invited into the group. Now we just call it "Sushi Night" and everyone is invited.
Photo courtesy of Marti Barrand
Conversation ranges from intimate to superficial as we discuss relationship, health or work issues or a cool new pair of Keen's found on sale. Occasionally someone has a good cry in their Kirin. Sometimes we are silly (a wasabi-eating contest with rules made up on the fly and a one-month yoga pass as the grand prize comes to mind.) Regularly there are lifted glasses in celebration of the previous weekend's promising hot date, a painful but necessary breakup, a loved one who is making good recovery from illness, a new pregnancy, acceptance to a new school or job or an upcoming vacation. We toast to life.
Our hosts at Ami, brothers Kwang C, Kwang H and their father Young, know us well by now. They know how many glasses to bring with the beer, who takes ice in their water and who doesn't, who prefers just a little rice in their roll, and who just simply won't eat raw fish. Kwang H has a penchant for checking on the welfare of any missing members and fills us in on the upcoming arranged marriage of his older brother. All three men offer us tremendous hospitality. When Young brings out complimentary beer or sake and offers us a salute we feel like part of the Ami Sushi family. And the sushi is always impeccably fresh, delicious and beautiful.
San Francisco Roll at Ami Sushi
After the last sip of sake or nibble of Kabuki roll, we walk the couple of blocks back, usually at a slower pace than our "getting there" walk. We linger on the sidewalk to offer or receive the last felicitous words of encouragament, insight and support. Hugs are passed around, and off we fade into our own worlds again knowing that we belong. Knowing that walking life's road is more wonderous with the reinforcement of friends by our side.
Since I have this sushi outing on a regular basis, I'm not likely to create my own sushi at home. But, this miso soup is a good recipe to have under your belt. It makes a nice breakfast or warming beverage, and I highly recommend it for whatever ails you.
Feel free to experiment with miso pastes; the yellow tends to the salty, the white heads toward sweet. Even mixing a little white, yellow and red can be good. Don't boil after adding the miso paste-- it is said to destroy the health properties of the miso.
4 cups water or low-salt mushroom or chicken stock
2 - 4 tablespoons miso paste (to taste)
2 - 3 ounces firm tofu (2 handfuls), chopped into 1/3-inch cubes
a handful of spinach, washed and stems trimmed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
two slices of ginger, about the size of quarters
a pinch of red pepper flakes
In a medium sauce pan bring the water or stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and remove from heat. Pour a bit of the hot water into a small bowl and whisk in the miso paste - so it thins out a bit (this step is to avoid clumping). Stir this back into the pot. Taste, and then add more (the same way) a bit at a time until it is to your liking. Add the tofu, spinach, green onions, ginger and red pepper flakes, immediately remove from the heat. Let it sit for just a minute or so. Serve in bowls.
Serves 2 - 3.