Two Ears, One Mouth
Why the Sushiritto is key to listening across cultures
July 6, 2021
July 6, 2021
Have you tried a Falafel Cobb Salad?
How about a Sushiritto?
Or perhaps, some Butter Chicken Poutine for dinner tonight?
It seems like fusion food has been having a moment. Flip on an episode of Top Chef or just walk down your local Restaurant Row and you’ll find several of these cultural food mash-ups. Even home cooks are doing it for the ‘gram to come up with the wackiest new dish. These inventive cuisines combine a little bit of one culture and a little bit from another… and maybe a few more too. They bring together seemingly random ingredients from across the world’s food spectrum. But somehow it works (well most of the time, we don’t recommend the PB&J Duck Sandwich).
And why shouldn’t we mix it up? It’s great that we’re crossing borders right in our own kitchens. We’re being open to new suggestions and fresh ideas. We’re listening and learning from other countries and cultures. And we’re fusing all those concepts together to bite into new perspectives. America is perhaps the world leader in fusion in the broadest sense. Us Americans are like a bunch of reality cooking show contestants all contributing to the melting pot. Each of us is bringing something unique to the table. We all come with our distinctive backstories and family histories. Just like on a reality show, sometimes we get along, and sometimes not so much.
We have a smattering of every country in the world represented in our own reality show. And all those cultures intertwine to tell a story not only through cuisine, but also in the way we interact with each other. It’s a big part of what makes us uniquely America.
We’re going to take you through some of these reality-show-type backstories that make up American culture. They showcase how now ꟷ more than ever ꟷ it is important for us to listen across cultures. We’ll talk about Americans’ much loved topics of food and money, and then on to cultural throw pillows, how this is relevant to your aunt’s Facebook posts, and why this is significant to people who have two ears.
You may be thinking, huh?
Stick with us, cause all these dissimilar areas really do lead back to what we’re all about: listening.
Sushiritto is a real restaurant chain based in San Francisco. Its titular "sushirrito" is a blend of traditional sushi with the form of a burrito. The Japanese and Latin flavor combinations have been a hit with its customers.
Sushirrito was founded by Peter Yen. Yen was born in Taiwan, arrived in New Jersey at age three, and spent his teen years in the San Francisco Bay Area. He began his career in investment banking and private equity. The idea for Sushirrito started to form while he was working in downtown San Francisco. Yen got tired of the usual lunch options and wondered why there was a lack of fast casual sushi places. He saw an opportunity to combine the Bay Area’s favorite foods – sushi and burritos – into a portable, on-the-go meal. He created the Sushirrito brand name and trademarked it in 2008.
Yen collaborated with Ty Mahler to launch Sushirrito in January 2011. Mahler is a Midwestern native and former executive chef of Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion. Maher adds a creative fusion flare to Sushirrito by bringing his classical chef training in the culinary flavors of France, Japan, and South America. Yen said, “Food, like language, music, and culture, is constantly evolving. To deem something as merely traditional is to shortchange continuous human creativity and innovation." Yen and Mahler were early pioneers of the hybrid food scene. The concept for Sushiritto was ideated long before food mash-ups became a trend.
The duo have also transformed sushi culture itself. They listened to the market and saw a need for a tasty alternative to the usual time-consuming sit-down sushi restaurants, and the unoriginal pre-made options.
And we can’t help but add, since we’re such fans of listening around here…we love that Yen said the best advice he ever received was “Always listen to your wife.”
So let us make a bit of a pivot from the dining room to the boardroom.
There has been a push recently to diversify the boards of America’s financial institutions. Nasdaq has a proposal before the SEC. It aims to require its listed companies to include women and people of diverse racial identities or sexual orientation on their boards.
This is the latest effort to bring the realism of America’s streets to Wall Street. Drive down a street and you will see a diverse array of not only people but the cars they drive and the houses they own. You’ll also see a variety of small businesses, like Sushiritto, that are owned by and employ a diverse group of people. But this cultural diversity is not being reflected by our financial leaders. They control much of the nation’s money, but are ignoring the true value of diverse representation.
This theme of demanding change for the new cultural normal seems to be a thread woven throughout 2020.
We want to see the “real America” reflected not only in boardrooms, but also in initiatives such as who gets the coronavirus vaccine or who gets to work from home. We want to be listened to and heard.
As a throw pillow once said, “Life is 10% of what happens to you, and 90% of how you react to it.” 2020 was a year when a lot of change was thrown at us, and we formed our own individual reactions to it. Some of us meditated. Some of us journaled. Some of us cried. And some of us ate our feelings with a bunch of Sushirittos.
But we also tried to react with notions of patience, tolerance, and empathy. These are all key skills needed to be a good listener. We must try to actively listen to what is being said in the media, by our frenemies, and on Aunt Sue’s Facebook posts. And react in a way that furthers, not prohibits, an ongoing cultural conversation. We must pay attention, withhold judgements, ask questions, and clarify points.
It comes as no surprise that we are at a critical inflection point. And we are a tad unsure of which way our world will turn. Now is the time to take a new look at how we interact with and listen to other cultures. Whether it’s in our own backyard or halfway across the globe. We have to work together to try and overcome our challenges as they continue in 2021.
So now seems apropos to introduce our new series about listening between cultures. It is called “Two Ears, One Mouth.” The title comes from Greek philosopher Epictetus who stated, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” We will look at what we can learn about listening from cultures that are right here in America and around the world.
Listening varies among cultures. Cross cultural training company Commisceo Global made the point, “How we listen to information, how we process it, what we focus on and we believe…all come from our own unique cultural conditioning. This conditioning can be the result of all sorts of things from your gender to nationality to town or village and 10s of other potential influencing factors such as peer group or religious beliefs.”
Culture itself can be defined in so many ways. Within a culture, there are what could be described as subcultures. These could be groups based on associations or beliefs such as the music they listen to or even the Sushiritto Fan Club. In “Two Ears, One Mouth” we’ll look at all these factors and how they influence our listening.
We all have our own unique cultural identities in America and beyond. Let’s embrace that and leverage that. Let’s listen and learn. We need it more than ever as we leave 2020 in the rear-view mirror and look forward to brighter tomorrows.
And back to that Epictetus statement, we also think he was referring to that age old quote that can be attributed to many mothers. You know the one: don’t talk with your mouth full. Unless of course it is full of fusion food.
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