There are certain rhetorical observations that say more than people realize they are saying. To say that traditional Japanese meal will likely be minimalistic is a statement of the obvious. While there are exceptions, most traditional meals fall into the classification of small portions, bite-size amounts, and austere presentation. A simple dish is an example of less being more.
Last night I experienced a meal in a simplistic restaurant that had six tables. The walls were primarily white with a few simple pictures to break up the monotony. The dinner choices were two. Option 1 or option 2. Neither came with any description. The choice was based on how much you wanted to spend on the chef and his time. I took the less expensive option. The result was something that I find myself struggling to explain on the day after.
My problem starts with explaining the answer to a question that had no answer. When someone asks the obvious, “are gardeners forbidden to eat vegetables from their own gardens? Don’t milkmaids get to drink their fill from the pail?” (1 Corinthians 9.7) I want to scream “yes”! I pause, knowing there is more to the story than the question.
Last night’s meal was a series of small, superficially simple, dishes. Underneath the exterior, I was given the opportunity to experience a modern day version of traditional Japan. The waitresses were wonderfully present yet absent. When they did speak, the intimacy of changing your plates for dishes was replaced by just enough space that one knew s/he was holding an invitation to chat. When the conversation was over, the quietness and professional service restarted as if it had never been interrupted.
The ingredients for the meal were familiar ones. Yet the experience with the combinations, styles, and presentation varieties left me with something that was new. The experience was a gift marked by wonderful ingredients, unique seasonings, and a gentle feeling of being pampered. It was less. It was also more. I am left curious and wanting. It is a gift I can share with others.