55 Adelaide Street East
Dinner for two (includes beverages, tax and tip): $250 – $300
Accessibility: steps at street entrance, washrooms on main floor
Growing up in Halifax in the 1980s, a close proximity to the ocean meant that my family ate lots of fresh fish, but we certainly would never have considered eating it raw. I knew about sushi, but my experience of it did not extend past the scene in The Breakfast Club where Molly Ringwald’s character brings a selection for lunch. Which, in retrospect, is a little dubious, right? Did she have an ice pack in her bag?
When I moved to Toronto in 1987, my roommate Sharon and I would often go out clubbing and walk home. We walked a lot, and often far. Our weekly walk home from Psychedelic Sundays at RPM to our flat in Kensington Market (a walk of around 45 minutes and close to 4 km) often took us through the downtown core in the wee hours. We walked past Nami, and the blue neon wave above the front entrance, dozens of times, regularly wondering what Japanese food was really like. “I bet it’s really ‘fancy,’” one of us would inevitably say. “And expensive,” the other would reply.
While the ensuing decades has made sushi and Japanese cuisine not just accessible but downright normal or basic, I’d never gotten around to visiting Nami. During my time as a food writer, it flew under the radar, never needing to do any overt promotion. So when the name showed up on this year’s list for Summerlicious, I waved off my usual suspicion of the annual promotion, and we headed to Nami for an early dinner before a concert in St. James Park.
This weekend marks the opening of Food. Inc, a film about the food industry in North America. Early reviews describe it as shocking and life-changing, revealing aspects of food production that most people are blissfully unaware of.
We are encouraged to know where our food comes from, and mostly that means local food. Know your farmer; know what’s in season; eat organic, sustainably produced food. And be willing to pay for it.
But as much as we can all sing local until the cows come home, much of the western world still relies on majority world countries to supply our foodstuffs. And we want it cheap.
The BBC 3 series Blood, Sweat and Takeaways, which ran over the past four weeks, followed 6 young British people (who were all accustomed to eating cheap junk food) as they travelled across southeast Asia, working in factories and rice fields to find out the human cost of their cheap food.
The 6 Brits try their hands working at a tuna factory in Indonesia cleaning and gutting fish; a prawn farm (where they spend their days rebuilding a mud levee to keep the prawns from being washed away in a storm); and a prawn factory where some of them are fired for not working fast enough. During the first two episodes they stay in the homes of factory workers, and are appalled by the living conditions and outdoor toilets. They can never keep up with the local workers and are often embarrassed when a job they’ve been assigned has to be assisted or redone by locals.