A Simple Survey:Volume1 File18
File 18: Chef Koitarou's Insatiable Challenge
“Hey, grampa. I got that lady to do an authentic ‘nandeyanen’.”
“I see. I see. Did you make sure to thank her?”
“Ha ha ha. You got your grandfather!”
The pair who seemed to be grandfather and granddaughter (it would have seemed creepy if they weren’t) left the sushi shop with a smile. …Was a Kansai dialect really that rare a thing?
They had been the last of the lunchtime customers, so the sushi shop now contained only myself and the stubborn old sushi chef. The stubborn old man gave me an annoyed look as I stood there with a lab coat worn over a cheap suit.
“I admire your politeness for waiting until the last customer left, but nothing else.”
“Then can we get down to business?”
I placed a business tablet computer down on the counter and the old man’s eyebrows lowered in suspicion almost immediately.
His face seemed to say that he hated me and my lab coat that smelled of ethanol.
Well, those who made incredible advancements along a certain path would always be in conflict with those who did not understand and who refused to head down that path.
Surprisingly few people had the abnormal determination needed to get the general public to accept you the way Koitarou-san had. And yet it was always that determination that allowed this small nation to advance the way it had.
“I’m sure you know that I loathe the likes of you,” he said. “Yours is one of the biggest rotating sushi chains around. What I hate most of all is that you have the gall to put ‘Edo-style’ on your signs.”
“Oh, come on now. Edo-style merely refers to the form. It isn’t called Edo-style because someone from Tokyo made it. It’s the same as how Japanese chefs can make French food.”
“The form of food changes daily. Pizza started to be delivered by bike and sushi started to rotate on conveyer belts. But Edo-style refers to this. Everything that goes into this shop is what makes it Edo-style. I’m not complaining about whether the shop is located in Osaka or Tokyo. What I don’t like is your method of sticking a dropper into a test tube to look into the makeup of the flavor or the effects of preservatives, you food development researcher.”
“You say that, but sushi was originally a method of preserving fish. It was a type of fermented food. Trout sushi and the like were developed from that. When Edo-style sushi first showed up, it was treated as an inferior imitation just the way you are treating rotating sushi, was it not? Koitarou-san, I believe it was your ancestors who skillfully worked long months and years to raise it to the accepted position it is in now.”
“That may be, but I draw the line at calling that ‘Edo-style’. I don’t care what you do, but there needs to be distinction. Quit calling it ‘authentic’ or ‘Edo-style’ and then work to see if you can outdo real Edo-style under its own name.”
“Koitarou-san, do you like salmon or cheese rolls?”
“If you can outdo quality tuna with that, then I will not complain. I would prefer to have you challenge me with something new rather than by taking cheap tuna and trying to hide the flavor by adding lard.”
From that exchange, I am sure you have seen just how stubborn Koitarou-san could be.
And how softhearted he could be.
At first glance, he looked like a formidable enemy who was armed with his ideas, but when you broke through his ideas, he was often softhearted enough to be unable to abandon others.
For example, he was the type of old man who would complain about a festival but at the same time create a lavish assortment of chirashizushi for the occasion. And he would tell the neighborhood children that their smiles were enough to pay for their sushi.
“But, Koitarou-san, we are running a business, so I did not come here for something I do not think has a chance of succeeding.”
“Are you going to use your tears in an attempt to get me to develop a product for you?”
“Something like that. After all, Koitarou-san, you may have complained about the last job I brought you, but you still helped me through to the end.”
“…That was because you said you wanted to develop sushi that was just like the real thing but could be eaten by those with fish allergies. You asked me to mix together things like soybeans and potato starch to perfectly recreate the flavor and texture.”
“Yes, yes. We may just be a rotating sushi restaurant, but we managed to take over a large portion of the medical care indus-…Cough, cough. No, I mean we managed to let many patients eat sushi with a smile for the first time.”
I had to quickly change what I was saying because Koitarou-san was glaring at me with eyes sharper than his knife.
“In other words, Koitarou-san, you are willing to swallow your personal pride and join forces with a chain restaurant like us if it will help the world at large, correct?”
“…Wait. So what is at stake today?”
“World peace. Or to be more specific, demonic beasts. Do you understand now?”
Koitarou-san’s gaze grew even sharper.
Well, you could hardly blame him.
For those creatures, the path of evolution had become so twisted that they had overturned all common biological knowledge. In fact, it made them almost seem like they had come from “somewhere else”. They did not understand human language and all methods of communicating our thoughts to them had been ineffective. Also, they were overwhelmingly strong. The militaries of the 8 major countries of the world had quickly given up trying to suppress them, and now civilian groups were in control of making sure they were provoked as little as possible.
Due to those horrible creatures, calculations had predicted that humanity’s destruction would likely come from them rather than due to oil sources drying up or global warming causing food shortages. Naturally, the demonic beasts could only see humans as another food source.
“What is a single sushi chef supposed to do about it? Are you telling me to slice them up and place them above some sushi rice?”
“No. We humans cannot kill these demonic beasts in the first place. The most we can do is cause slight injuries that only drive them into a frenzy. That is why we must stop thinking offensively with ideas of how to ‘defeat’ them. That is why I have turned it on its head. That is the only way.”
“Demonic beasts view humans as food. But that does not mean they eat only humans. …That makes this simple. If we give them some kind of food that is more delicious than humans and make sure they instinctually realize that they can only continue eating that food as long as we remain alive, they will no longer view us as targets.”
“Will it really work quite that well?”
“It’s similar to the symbiotic relationship between ants and aphids. Neither side is truly in control. Also, it does not require a mutual language. As long as we can teach them via experience that they will receive ‘delicious honey’ from us, we will be on equal footing.”
I had already tried this with a French chef and a Chinese chef, but they had said this method could be used for more than just world peace. After all, if the actions of the demonic beasts could be influenced by delicious food, it was possible that food could be used to make them attack other areas of the world.
However, that would just make things more difficult with this stubborn old man, so I decided to not bring it up.
A “villain focused on profit” like me could keep those difficult issues to herself.
“Koitarou-san, I won’t bother you with the specific numbers, but the casualties due to demonic beasts are worst in central Africa. That area has little resources and food, so the international community pays little attention to it. Due to this, help to evacuate the people is tending to arrive too late. I may have done a lot just to make money in the past, but this much is true. …With my knowledge and your skill, we can bring the number of victims down to zero.”
Koitarou-san stopped in the middle of wiping down the kitchen with a wet rag.
“You’re as cowardly as ever.”
“And you are a true artisan for being willing to apply your talents despite that, Koitarou-san.”
And so Koitarou-san and I began the challenge.
In our attempt to face the threat of the demonic beasts, Koitarou-san used the senses of his tongue and his fingertips while I used the detailed statistics made from the massive amounts of data taken.
“If we need to make enough to feed all of them, it should be something that is not too difficult to make. Something the local people can simply and quickly make in large quantities would be best. Also, we can’t have the humans starving because they have no food left after feeding the demonic beasts. Ideally, it would be some fish or produce that is not often used for food.”
“It seems the demonic beasts’ sense of taste is not much different from that of us humans, but the reports say their ability to taste sourness is quite dull.”
“In that case, something like Nomura’s jellyfish might be a good idea. Really, anything that is large and emits a horrible ammonia smell. Their numbers have exploded recently, so quantity won’t be an issue.”
“I’ll have some brought in from our fish tanks.”
“…Do you have an aquarium built beneath your company?”
While we waited for the truck to arrive, we exchanged our opinions on the issue. The discussion was something like an exchange between two different cultures and it really inspired us. It was strange how our opinions were so different despite the fact that we were both trying to reach the same type of flavor.
When the Nomura’s jellyfish actually arrived, Koitarou-san frowned slightly and reluctantly looked over toward his knife.
“If you don’t want to get the horrible smell all over the place, I can prepare a kitchen and tools for you.”
“No, this is my cooking. I’ll use my tools.”
“So what should we do to make this jellyfish delicious while imagining that the sourness isn’t there?”
“It’s a collection of moisture, so putting it over a flame will flatten it. We have no choice but to use it raw.”
“So a type of sashimi?”
“Or we could increase the amount and make something like chirashizushi. But then we’d have to look for some other usually unusable food to take the place of the rice.”
Afterwards, we gathered things like weeds that were spreading too much and reducing the tubers of potatoes in the desert and safe fruits that were avoided because they looked just like poisonous ones.
“…We could probably make a salad with all this.”
“After all that talk about Edo-style sushi, we’re going to end up with something like that?”
“Actually, I think we should stick with the jellyfish. If we gather too many things that aren’t normally eaten, some bitterness will probably remain.”
“Hiding obstinate flavors is traditionally done by using wasabi soy sauce.”
“Wah! Wait, wait! Demonic beasts can’t handle anything spicy. The data says it causes them to go on a rampage! There was a report of horrible results when someone tried feeding them Indian food!!”
“Tch. Then we can put in something like pickled ginger to distract from the flavor…”
“I told you they can’t taste sourness.”
“Then what am I supposed to do!? Do the demonic beasts have a sweet tooth, so we should give them ice cream!?”
I operated the tablet computer with my index finger.
“I said the demonic beasts had a dull sense of sourness, right? It seems that’s because their digestive system is powerful enough that they can ignore that kind of warning signal.”
“It seems they often show up in trash dumps. I think they might love rotten foods.”
“Are you trying to mock me? As a sushi chef, freshness is my life.”
“Think of it as a fermented food. You can manage if you think of it as no different from cheese or natto, right?”
“I don’t care!! If they love the smell of rotting so much, why don’t you feed them a rag soaked in milk!? No, wait. That would be a waste of milk. But you could use sheep’s milk that humans almost never drink!!”
Later, Koitarou’s idea of the “Japanese Twist Stick” saved central Africa from its crisis and became a light of hope against the demonic beasts.
The major Japanese rotating sushi chain that held the patent profited immensely and grew to being the 2nd largest chain restaurant in the world. Koitarou was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, but he stubbornly refused it. His name was known around the world as a representative of the stubborn Japanese dandy, a personality type that had survived into the 21st century.
“Ahh, how wonderful. The world is at peace and my company has now delved deeply into the national defense and munitions industries. Koitarou-san, that was quite the horrible act you put on while refusing the Nobel Prize!! Huh? You look upset. Did something happen?”
“Yours is now the best-selling Edo-style sushi in the world. I think I’ve seriously lost all confidence in myself…”
- Nandeyanen is the classic tsukkomi in the Kansai dialect
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