Just like a distaste for vegetables (particularly Stock "Yuck!" things like broccoli, spinach, or Brussels sprouts) is often associated with children, fiction has a tendency to portray those who have not or refuse to eat sushi as either uncultured or old fashioned. This is especially common in stories where people from the country or small towns are taken out to eat by their city mouse or coastal friends/relatives, only to be disturbed that they're being fed uncooked fish; whether we sympathize with them depends on the writer. Also expect them to accidentally eat too much wasabi, usually by mistaking it for guacamole. In contrast, liberal upper-middle-class 20-somethings adore sushi, at least according to sitcom land. And finally, expect no one to mention that California rolls, which are served at all sushi places, contain no raw fish. In fact, the term "sushi" refers to the sticky, vinegared rice and does not have to include raw fish ("sashimi") by definition; it can also be filled or topped with cooked meats, seafoods, and vegetables. Again, though, don't expect this to be pointed out in a lot of fiction, where even today "sushi" and "raw fish" are still used interchangeably quite often.
This trope's existence is likely because sushi falls in a grey area as far as "foreign food" goes in America. Its preparation is still considered strange enough to (believably) alienate some Westerners, yet it's mainstream enough that calling it foreign queasine would be considered silly (at least in America). This trope would not work, for example, if we replaced "sushi" with balut, but it might work if we replace "sushi" with ceviche.
Of course nowadays, sushi is getting less exotic due to greater cultural knowledge and acceptance, and city folks have moved on to trendier and healthier foods such as "vegan sushi with avocado everywhere" or whatever they post on social media that day, and given the improvements to technology like social media that exchanges culinary information and flash-freezing techniques that make food fresher for long travel, sushi is gaining a bit more acceptance in rural areas, making it accessible to landlocked areas. But this classic trope lives on.
Sub-trope to Haute Cuisine Is Weird.
- One anti-Howard Dean political advert from 2004 had "sushi-eating" among the other liberal epithets (alongside "latte-drinking", "Volvo-driving", and so on).
- An ad from the late 90s for 10-10-220 long distancenote had Terry Bradshaw and Doug Flutie at a sushi restaurant. While Flutie digs in, Bradshaw remarks that when he was growing up they called it "bait" and lets the server know they forgot to cook it.
- Cars 2: At a party in Tokyo, lovable American hick Mater mistakes wasabi for pistachio ice cream and asks for a big heaping scoop. He then embarrasses himself by rushing to a fountain to wash off the burning sensation from his mouth.
- In Madagascar, zoo-raised lion Alex is horrified by his newfound urge to hunt live, fellow animals for dinner...an urge the also zoo-raised penguins resolve by making him sushi. Like a true New Yorker, Alex concludes sushi is better than the crude steaks associated with his primal origins.
- The Breakfast Club: Rich Alpha Bitch Clair eats sushi for lunch and Bender, a delinquent from a lower class background, thinks it's disgusting.
- Christian Mingle: The Movie: Gwyneth takes Patrick (a WASP who is Two Decades Behind) out for sushi. He struggles with the concept and spends an agonising amount of time chewing, tasting, and swallowing a piece, only to gasp with relief once it's down his throat.
- In You've Got Mail sushi is mentioned by the yuppie newspaper columnist as what dinner's gonna be. His bookstore owner girlfriend repeats "Sushi!" with a mix of surprise and approval.
- Bombshell (2019): The ultra-conservative Beth catches her assistant eating sushi, to her obvious derision. The assistant tries to downplay it by claiming that she got it from a gas station and blurts, "It's not liberal food," but Beth isn't buying it.
- American Psycho: The novel begins with stereotypical New York Yuppie Patrick Bateman eating sushi with his friends. He debates using the soy sauce or not based on its sodium content.
- Mentioned in Thud!, and given more detail in The Compleat Ankh-Morpork City Guide, a trend amongst the cosmopolitan young dwarfs of the Discworld's big city is sushi rat, bought from Gimlet's Hole Food Delicatessan's new franchise "Yo, Rat!" (a parody of the UK's Yo! Sushi chain).
- 2 Broke Girls: Upper-class Caroline can't believe that lower-class Max hasn't tried sushi.
- The Nanny: Fran is taken out for sushi for the first time and piles a lot of wasabi onto one piece because she's told it's "like mustard" and she loves mustard. It literally knocks her on the floor and temporarily opens her sinuses to the point where she loses her distinctive voice for a few lines.
- Inverted in an episode of Night Court where two Sumo wrestlers from Japan are disgusted by sushi, but do seem to like American food, including McDonald's.
- Zigzagged in Sledge Hammer! where the protagonist likes it (specifically, he likes the new sushi-dogs sold by vendors) but Doreau is turned off by them.
- Breaking Bad: The simple, low-brow Hank gives his fancy wife Marie grief for eating it in one episode by pointing out that they live nowhere near the ocean. Accordingly, sushi must be seen as even more exotic in Albuquerque than in coastal communities.
- In Anthony Hamilton's "Comin' From Where I'm From" the speaker who has had a life of poverty and other struggles, talks about his shady college-educated girlfriend who preferred sushi to fried chicken.
- The short-lived country hit "(He Can't Even) Bait a Hook," by Justin Moore, has a brief mention of this trope, among a long litany of other ways in which the singer's ex's new boyfriend isn't a Real ManTM.
- Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword: Sid Sushi Co, while giving less food when incorporated than Cereal Mills, gives a good amount of culture per turn.
- Made fun of in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater when Eva is flirting with Snake and asks him to take her somewhere nice to eat once the mission is done. Eva, being a refined NSA codebreaker used to high-class trendy food, suggests sushi, which is "all the rage". Snake, the Extreme Omnivore who's not averse to eating raw meat while in the forest, is all for the idea once she explains it's made of raw fish. Given the creator of the games is Japanese himself...
Eva: It's Japanese. I hear it's all the rage right now. Supposedly, it's made from raw fish.Snake: Raw fish? Just the place for my survival techniques!
- This article from Cracked about what it's like growing up a redneck in the Southern United States mentions this view on sushi. The two major causes the author attributes to it are the South's relatively late adoption of refrigeration and the fact that the local climate is freaking hot and humid (which makes keeping fresh fish even more difficult than other places).
- Arthur: Francine's sister makes the family go to a sushi restaurant because she won the Coin Toss to decide what to do on family night. Francine complains that the fish isn't cooked, and then puts a big heap of "guacamole" on hers in the hopes of making it taste better. Then tries to wash her mouth out with a bottle of soy sauce.
- Touched on in the Animaniacs episode "Hooray for North Hollywood", where sushi is portrayed as the go-to lunch for all the power brokers of Tinseltown.
- King of the Hill had an episode where Bobby tries to impress a girl from Los Angeles by taking her to a new sushi place, he even remarks "You may have thought we're too hick to have a sushi place in Arlen, and a month ago you'd be right." His date was able to tell the fish came from a can just from tasting one piece.
- In Doug, Doug's more worldly and free-spirited grandmother introduces him to sushi, something he considers exotic and out of his comfort zone.
- An episode of Big City Greens has the Greens visit a sushi restaurant, as Bill believes them to be the archetypal city restaurants. Their Jerkass waiter takes advantage of Bill's assumption, implying he's nothing but a tourist if he doesn't order an enormous meal of sushi and eat it all using only chopsticks.
- When the Israeli Occupy protests started, David Amar, the mayor of the Israeli town Nesher, dismissed the protesters, saying, "There's no protest, Bibi, note everyone on Rothschild Avenue, note got their hookahs and sushi." Soon, "hookahs and sushi" became a symbol for a condescending, dismissive view of the movement in Israel.