Sunday, August 24, 2008

.the gift of bread.

The other night, my sister and I made a trip to Hillsboro Village here in Nashville and decided to stop into a little Japanese restaurant called "The Taste of Tokyo."  It had been at least 5 years since I had step foot into this little place but I recalled its friendly service and reasonable prices.  So sure enough, we were greeted with a hearty hello by the owner of the restaurant from across the room, a Chinese woman by the name of Lucy.  Yes, I know. It is a Chinese couple that own and run this well known and loved Japanese restaurant nestled in this trendy strip of 21st Avenue.  And so, my sister Iris and I were escorted to our table.  I had the bento box.  She had sushi.  The food was superb of course.  Despite the fact that I spilled miso soup onto my lap is another story.  As we were being given our check, the chef and co-owner Peter, came up and asked if we were from Nashville.  Our answer was rather swishy as we both now live in Nashville but are originally from Hawai'i.  We said a, "Yeah, sorta," like a couple of teenage dimwits and he smiled and handed us a loaf of bread.  For the life of me, I could not make out what he said due to his accent (which surprises me because I'm rather good at making out what people are saying despite an accent) and to the noise of other patrons in this tiny dining room. We smiled and said our sincerest of thanks-yous and as he left, Iris and I both looked at each other with a questioning look.  "Who gives bread to a stranger?"  Hmmm...

After having paid our bill and once again saying our thanks for a wonderful meal and for the loaf, I began to think of the deeper meaning to this offering.  It is customary in many cultures to offer gifts of bread and salt to visitors as a way of showing that they are welcome there.  Very much like bringing a pie to someone just moving into the neighborhood.  Which who even does that any more?  In this case, perhaps this was Peter's way of saying "welcome to the neighborhood."  My thoughts went back again to just the act of giving to strangers.  How times have change now.  We are so consumed with our own lives that to acknowledge and offer friendship to a complete stranger is well, in some cases, inconvenient and intimidating, not to mention down right scary!  Which oddly enough, was the conversation that Iris and I had while eating our meal.  Maybe we should just get over the fear and just connect.  Make ourselves more open to the possibility of a beautiful friendship.  Maybe we should all be making some pie!

As I sit here, enjoying my piece of this glorious mixed grain bread, spackled with butter, I believe I shall pull out my stationary box and write a note to the folks at "The Taste of Tokyo" saying simply "thank you" for this gift.  

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