Dinner at Yumiko's

When I was an adjuster in the little town of Sarasota in the Fifties there were 2 exceptional orthopedic surgeons, Bob Greenwood and his partner, a Greek, Ilias Konstantinu.  The 6 of us and our wives became good friends and Bob lived just down the beach from us in a lovely old house at the end of Crescent Beach which National Geographic chose as one of the 10 best beaches of the world at the time. Later it was spoiled by high-rise hotels and condos.

Ilias' wife was Eugenie Clark, the famous shark expert (look her up in Wikipedia.) She was half American, half Japanese. Eugenie's mother, Yumiko Motomi, was a widow. Her husband had owned a well known NY restaurant and she was bored. Eugenie convinced her to come live in Sarasota with them. She did, and to drive boredom away she opened a small restaurant just at the of Siesta Key where we all lived. Occasionally we ate the standard Japanese fare at her restaurant and it was excellent: yakitori, sushimi, sushi, tempura.

One evening we were gathered round at the Greenwoods having drinks and Eugenie announced that if we were all free on the following Monday evening, she had convinced her mother to cook a real Japanese dinner on the night the restaurant was closed. The answer was an enthusiastic Yes. We assumed there would be the usual galore.

The six of us gathered around the table and Mama brought out the first succulent dish, then the second and third and fourth. She had ordered ingredients that were not on a usual menu. There was not a one of her standard fare. They were all extraordinary foods that only Eugenia and Ilias had ever tasted. And they kept coming, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleven, and the twelfth was a platter of deserts. The entire meal was accompanied by several kinds of sake.

It took three or four hours for the entire repast, because most of the dishes could not be cooked in advance. At the end we were a stuffed, slightly tipsy, and very happy sixsome, amazed by the food and the diversity. 

"That's what we cook at home," Yumiko said.

In 1980 i spent a month in Japan. 27 nights were spent following a Japanese friend to 27 restaurants, each with a different style of regional cuisine. It was a mind boggling experience. "Americans", she said, "think it's all the four standards and now they've added a few noodle and soup dishes, but it is really an amazing range of cuisine." And so it was, yet it never beat the dinner in Yumiko's little place.

Jack Siler
Tavira, Portugal 2016

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