Naked lunch? Maybe not in Pin­ner

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis -

WHEN YOU hear that the new din­ing craze in Lon­don is the Ja­panese art of “ny­otaimori” — which is the prac­tice, found in elite, se­cre­tive Tokyo restau­rants of serv­ing sushi off the body of a naked woman — nat­u­rally you won­der why it is that you can tramp from one end of Gold­ers Green to the other, past dozens of restau­rants, and not one of them is serv­ing salt beef or cheese­cake off the body of a bare lady.

The man or­gan­is­ing th­ese ny­otaimori din­ners in Lon­don — ny­otaimori trans­lates as “fe­male body pre­sen­ta­tion” — says that to en­sure they re­main pri­vate and exclusive, there will be only a dozen din­ers, two dozen at most, at each of the clan­des­tine venues. The £250-a-head price prob­a­bly also helps to keep it exclusive. It’s exclusive even in Ja­pan. I lived there for three years and never came across ny­otaimori once.

Why not? My guess is that even in Ja­pan, a coun­try where peo­ple think it nor­mal for men to force­feed them­selves un­til they re­sem- ble a man­a­tee, wrap their loins in a bandage of cloth, and then try to heave ri­val wrestlers out of a small sumo ring, they prob­a­bly re­gard eat­ing din­ner off a naked body as a lit­tle un­usual (this is a na­tion that strug­gles to end a meal without a bowl of hot miso soup. Where is that go­ing to go?).

I’m an ad­ven­tur­ous diner and even I won­der if eat­ing din­ner from a woman’s torso isn’t an ad­ven­ture too far. I ap­pre­ci­ate that cu­rios­ity plays mid­wife to many gas­tro­nomic break­throughs.

We owe a debt to who­ever first squinted at a globe ar­ti­choke and thought to them­selves, “You know what? I bet there’s a tasty bit of eat­ing in there some­where!” And you’d be reck­less to knock the Ja­panese, who have a track record of food ex­per­i­ments which hit the bulls­eye (“You know what? To hell with cook­ing! Let’s just slice up this tuna and eat it as it comes! What? No, no spoons and forks. Use th­ese two twigs to pick up the slip­pery sliv­ers of fish. Sure, it’s a lit­tle tricky at first. But the good news is that we’ll end up get­ting so lit­tle tuna into our mouths there’s no risk of our end­ing up swelling up like mana­tees!”).

But naked din­ing? How did that come about? Did a Tokyo salary­man come home drunk at 2am and say to his wife, who was du­ti­fully wait­ing up to cook him some noo­dles to soak up the al­co­hol, “That’s great Michiko, but how about tonight, for a change, you lie down naked on the tatami mat and I eat the noo­dles off your tummy? Think of the wash­ing up it will save!”

Still, ten years ago, most Bri­tons shrieked at the idea of sushi. They thought it was no dif­fer­ent from eat­ing an un­cooked fish fin­ger. Now sushi is sold in ev­ery su­per­mar­ket.

So who’s to say ny­otaimori won’t be em­braced just as en­thu­si­as­ti­cally across Bri­tain soon? Ex­cept, maybe, in a few Jewish homes, where you sus­pect that if a man were to re­turn from work and find his din­ner laid out on the body of a naked woman, he would not marvel at this won­drous mar­riage of two of na­ture’s boun­ties. No. He would shout into the kitchen: “What hap­pened, Miriam? Did we run out of plates?”

Joe Joseph is a writer for The Times

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