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City People Eat Sushi

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Just like a distaste for vegetables (particularly 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 friends, 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.

Sub-trope to Haute Cuisine Is Weird.



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  • The anti-Howard Dean political advert from 2004 had "sushi-eating" among the other liberal epithets (you know, "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.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cars 2: At a party in Tokyo, 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Breakfast Club: Rich girl Clair eats sushi for lunch and bad boy Bender thinks it's disgusting.
  • Averted in Repo Man: when the punk crooks are thinking of something criminal-ey to do, one suggests "Let's get sushi — and not pay!".
  • Averted in Rising Sun where tough Los Angeles cop Tom Graham clearly doesn't like sushi. When another cop asks if he wants to eat at a place that has it, he replies, "No thanks. If I get a craving for mercury, I'll eat a thermometer."
  • 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.

  • 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).

    Live-Action TV 
  • As a general rule, sushi is often seen as the food of yuppies. Thus expect any sitcom about single, upper-to-middle-class white people to have an episode where they all go out to eat sushi.
  • 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 eats a lot of wasabi, because she's told it's "like mustard" and she loves mustard. It knocks her on the floor, and temporarily opens her sinuses.
  • 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: Hank gives Marie a little shit for eating it in one episode (although it's less his disgust of the stuff and more that New Mexico is nowhere near the ocean).

  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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 used to eating raw wildlife in the jungle, is all for the idea once she claims it's made of raw fish.
    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!

    Web Original 
  • A Cracked article 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).

    Western Animation 
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • Truth in Television: The availability of sushi depends heavily on proximity to the ocean and the network of highways, rivers, and air travel needed to get sushi to the places it is eaten. Coastal locations and transportation hubs are also the natural location of bustling cities. The cities of the West Coast also have large populations of people of Japanese ancestry.
  • The aversion to sushi can be chalked up to (yet again) Western misconception about foreign cultures. Most people associate sushi with raw fish. Eating raw fish is, naturally, detestable; you can't guarantee the raw fish you are being served does not contain parasites, such as tapeworm cysts - these are normally killed during the cooking process, and that fish had better be fresh. Elderly fish is a cause of food poisoning. The thing is, as noted in the description, sushi actually refers to vinegared rice that the fish is usually eaten with; sushi can be served with anything, as long as it has the rice. Eating the fish without the vinegared rice =/= eating sushi. You simply eat sashimi in that case.


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