Last night I listened to crickets, at my home in Vallejo. I am not sure exactly when I first heard them playing their leg violins. I say leg violins, not leg cellos. Even though the sound they play is closer to that of a cello, leg violins sound better in my head. It was probably on vacation. My family, brother, sisters, mom and dad; would go camping every year. It was that way as long as I can remember. Camping to me is that faint kerosene smell that old army tents have, combined with dust and age. It is the snapping of a camp fire, the aroma of toasted marshmallows smashed onto melting chocolate bars and graham crackers. The scent of pine trees and the crush of needles under my feet as I walk -forever- to get to the bathroom. The feel of ice cold lake water early in the morning and the burn of the sun in the afternoon. But mostly, I think, it was the sound of crickets. Crickets meant out-of-doors. Crickets meant wildlife. Crickets meant vacation and happiness.


I have eaten crickets only once. Early in my career as a restaurant manager, I was invited to a sushi bar in Marin. They had just gotten a great review in the SF Chronicle and my friend wanted me to try it. Now I will stop here to tell you that I may not have eaten sushi at all, at this point in my life. This was the 1980’s, and I had barely weened myself from my mother’s tuna casserole. Veal Piccata was new to me then. But, I am brave and adventurous with the only food that I am unwilling to put in my mouth is the 1000 year old egg. (Don’t judge.) Excited to be trying sushi, my friend smiled at me mischievously and asked if I wanted to try a candied cricket. (p.s. My heart actually stopped at this point.)  What could I do, she was cute, I had an agenda and the cricket was my Mount Olympus.


I ate two. Those crispy little legs flossing my teeth as I crunched away at their, well, crunchy little bodies. Crickets down, sushi to go, I had made my first impression. Sisyphus you have nothing on me. Without a doubt I became an immediate fan of sushi and would stop to eat it at any time, cute date or not. Maybe not so with the cricket treats. Been there, t-shirt, yada yada.


Here in V-Town we have a few decent sushi bars, I am pleased to say. My current favorite happens to be Matsuri Sushi Bar at 480 Redwood St. Funny thing, there is never a wait when I go in and their sushi is fresh, delicate and almost sweet to the taste. I even bumped into the celebrated chef of Provisions, Lisa Lees, dining there. Those in the know, as it were. I often eat the same sushi pieces: Maguro, Hamachi, Ama Ebi and always Unagi for dessert with its sweet candied glaze. (Yup. Same glaze as the crickets.) If you like sushi, or at least want to try a local spot of good quality, then try Matsuri, and say hi to Lisa for me.


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Until next time,


Eat Well and Smile Often


Tommy Judt

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