Sushi Making For The Soul Of Ugandan Children

My love of observing children making discoveries for the very first time answers the perennial question of why I, paradoxically, also get a kick out of conducting classes to a room full of adults. Most of my classes, both onsite and away, comprise of adults who, after overcoming the initial unsettling feeling of doing something new, display the same quality of enthusiasm and playfulness that I so much enjoy watching in children. This cannot be helped, I guess, especially in the Level I Makimono class, because there is something about dipping your hands in water, smooshing a riceball across a sheet of nori, creatively blending in available ingredients, and that self-congratulatory posture bordering on narcissism when the roll has been finished, that seems to revive some dormant inner child in us time-worn people. It hearkens back to those less encumbered days when we squished Playdoh between our fingers and fingerpainted on the wall. And it seems to lend a kind of solace to those of us who may feel that time and experience has all but worn away any traces of the “childish” in us. I hear it all the time- from banking executives to housewives to one grandfather who was “dragged” all the way from Owen Sound by his granddaughter to try sushi for the first time- about how fun the class was, how much for granted they took the simple pleasures derived from coordinating their hands, eyes, and heart; alas, how they took for granted the simple pleasures of acting like children again.

Recently, I was asked to emcee an event for The Nggaali Project, a fundraising gala whose ultimate purpose was to bring the children of Uganda and Canada together under “one roof”. It was held at the Daniels Spectrum theatre in the recently revived Regent Park area of Toronto.  It was a grand night of dancing and singing and dining, all in the name of sharing with people across the pond.

IMG_0548IMG_0528Nggaali Project photoIMG_0544Skype with Ugandan kids

It was thrilling to see these young faces beaming across the computer screen from someone’s backyard in Kampala, enjoying the festivities in their honour with us over Skype. I decided then and there that I wanted to conduct a sushi making class with these very children who had never heard of, not to speak of, tasted, sushi. So, with the director of Nggaali Kids, Maylynn Quan, who will be making her way to Uganda in March, it was settled: I would teach them how to make sushi all for the narcissistic pleasure of watching these children make new discoveries. They loved the idea over there as well. The date for this momentous event will be in late April and it will be held at Yakitori Bar. I would be assisted by children over here, who would participate as sushi makers on this side. I would also need to find ingredients that work appropriately for a Ugandan palate- they get squeamish at the idea of raw fish. All exciting stuff. Oh, and very childish of course; ergo, utterly meaningful fun…

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