The Price of the Unlimited

16 Nov

sushi parks and rec

Nothing in life is free.

This is an important lesson that hopefully, somewhere along the trajectory of your life, someone taught you.

Maybe when you were six and tried to steal a pair of Chaz Bono esque sunglasses from a local boutique by running out of the store, waving them above your head and yelling “freedom,” your mom explained to you that things cost money and cannot just be “liberated” at casual will.

Or, maybe your dad threatens to make you pay rent every time you come home because you refuse to bring your clean socks upstairs from the basement. And maybe, instead of bringing them upstairs by your own free will, he offers you a monetary reward, fueled by the desperation and annoyance that come with sorting through the socks of three women with equal foot size and an equal affinity for pink. (See? Even dads can’t get things for free!)

Or, perhaps you just know that nothing in life is free because you’ve seen the Godfather and you know that every night you don’t wake up with a horse head in your bed is a night for which to be thankful.

If you have yet to learn that everything has a price, might I suggest going to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant.

Ah, sushi. Such a light food. Such a healthy food. Such an aesthetically pleasing bounty of color and deceased marine animals.

It wasn’t until college that I became an official sushi fan-girl. And even then, the only reason I did was to relate to all of the Californians I was meeting at BU…

“Ugh, nothing here is on par with life in SoCal.”

“Oh, SoCal, is that like, near San Francisco?”


So, you see, I was not on the path toward West Coast assimilation. My Boston upbringing was seeping out of my pores like tequila during a post-margarita night spin class. I needed to find an East Coast way to relate to West Coasters. The answer? Food shaming.

Everyone knows that the East Coast doesn’t do Mexican food or sushi anywhere near as well as the West Coast. And, if you’re friends with any West Coasters, you know that they love to discuss this point ad nauseam… Which is why I willingly joined the East Coast-West Coast rivalry as someone who identified with the East Coast but would throw a punch in support the West Coast during a nightclub fight.

The three words that described my freshman year were maki, maki maki. I started eating sushi with remarkable frequency, simply so that I could be someone who could say I ate sushi, but only reluctantly because I knew it was “nowhere near as good as sushi in the Holy Land.”

My plan worked pretty well, actually. I’ve maintained a couple West Coast friendships, and I really do enjoy a good sushi every now and again.

That being said, even the best things come with quantifiable limits. (Okay, maybe not Peppermint Bark or Friends reruns or Titanic paraphernalia…but everything else reaches a limit.)

Sushi is one of those things.

Last week, my friends and I decided to go to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant for a late lunch. Unlimited sushi and appetizers for only $23 a person? What a steal! What an incredible opportunity to fulfill the American dream: boundless consumption of salt-ridden food. A couple of Gatsbys, we were.

Naturally, we ordered twelve rolls of sushi, seven appetizers, soup, seaweed salad, and fried rice to split among four people. And, instead of opting to take the meal course by course and to only order the next set of plates after we’d finished the first, we decided to order everything in one felled swoop.

We treated ordering like a fun trivia game, with food being the reward for answering questions correctly.

“How many orders of wontons should we order? Quick, what number am I thinking of right now?”

Seventy-five wontons it is!

“What’s the age of the oldest woman to ever exist?”

We’ll take 122 plates of sashimi, kind sir!

“How many seconds are there in 899 days?”

Next up, 77,673,600 cups of miso soup!

We continued this way until our table looked fit to feed a conference of the entire WWE network.


(Mind you, this picture was taken over halfway through the meal…)

A lot of our decision-making process was due to the fact that three out of four of us had never before frequented this particular sushi establishment.

As for the ONE of us who had attended this restaurant multiple times (not to name names, but IT WAS SELBY,) and who held the record for eating EIGHTY PIECES OF SUSHI IN ONE SITTING…she felt no need to brief us on sushi ordering etiquette. She thought that when we decided to order an extra plate of fried rice simply because “fried rice exists and we also exist,” we knew the exact coordinates of the shit pile into which we were about to step.

We did not.

It turns out that “all-you-can-eat sushi” comes with some very serious terms. In the event that you cannot finish seventy-five wontons, 122 plates of sashimi, and 77,673,600 cups of miso soup, you are expected to pay DOUBLE the original cost of the sushi experience. So, for those of us who clearly struggle with numbers, that means $46 a person. And that means no food or clothing or soap for at least ten weeks.

So, we pressed on. We threw rice on the table so the dish would look emptier. We brought food in napkins to dispose in the bathroom because we couldn’t bear to let another piece of raw fish enter our systems. I even resorted to “accidentally dropping” half of a spring roll into my scarf because it made a great hiding place (and, let’s face it, I’d probably want a snack later).

Because we were the only ones in the restaurant, the entire staff was watching us as we tried to climb Everest in broken Jimmy Choos. We ate and we ate and we ate until we were delirious. I was seeing spots and couldn’t stop laughing. We all felt slightly nauseous but also uncomfortably sweaty and cold at the same time.

When our waiter finally returned to check our progress, he had some *choice* words for us.

“Next time, do not order so much!” he said.

Well thank you, sir! As if our hindsight was saying ANYTHING TO THE CONTRARY.

I, too, had something to share with my friends. And, now that we were forever united under the arch of raw fish fish-scented teamwork, I decided to come clean.

“So, guys, I guess I should probably mention that I don’t actually like sushi that much and that I use it as more of a coastal unification tool…”

Let’s just say that the West Coast won’t be inviting me to defend it in club brawls for at least the foreseeable future.

Everything has a price. Even the unlimited.



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