The Ancient and Correct Sake Ceremony
Many Americans have learned to appreciate the delicate, sophisticated flavors of Japanese food and drink, along with the beautifully refined rituals of Japanese dining. San Francisco, as a gateway between East and West, has especially benefited from the flowering of Eastern consciousness in America. It is hardly possible to walk down the street without stepping on somebody's sushi.
Unfortunately, the American passion for experimentation has led to some bastardized and misbegotten concoctions. Sake cocktails, for instance, are nothing but an insult to our ancestors. Sake martinis. Sake cosmopolitans. Bah!
It is therefore in an effort to educate my ill-bred countrymen that I will now explain the ancient and correct sake ceremony, as it was taught to me by my wise old sensei Splinter.
Firstly, it is important to understand that the sake ceremony stems from a Shinto reverence for nature and belief in the harmony of all beings. Therefore, every aspect of the sake drinking experience — from the room in which the ceremony is held to the implements which are used to serve the drink — should be accorded equal care and attention. It is customary for the host to choose a single wall adornment, called a kakemono, which depicts some spiritual theme upon which guests may meditate as they enjoy their sake. The room is otherwise simple and plain. (Americans may find an appropriate kakemono in the pages of Hustler or Heavy Metal magazine.) Depending on the season, sandalwood incense may be burned.
Upon arriving, the guests should greet the host, and then admire the kakemono before seating themselves in order of seniority. If the ceremony is held during the day, the host will open the ceremony by ringing a bell five or seven times. In the evening, a gong will be sounded instead. It is also common to substitute an appropriate selection from Motley Crüe.
For the ceremony I am about to describe, nigori (unfiltered) sake should be served. The sake cups should be served to each guest on a plain cedar tray, along with a covered laquer bowl containing the marinade of kosher dill pickle spears (the kosuimono) and a shallow ceramic dish holding strips of beef jerky (the yakimono). The jerky is dipped into the pickle marinade and consumed in small bites, between sips of sake. At the end of the meal, the dregs of the pickle juice should be blended with the remainder of the sake, using a fluid pouring motion and a gentle swirl.
When each guest has consumed roughly half their sake, clove cigarettes will be passed around the circle. The senior guest, upon receiving his cigarette, should raise it and rotate it in the hand, admiring the craftsmanship and the tint of the paper. He will then light up. When he is done savoring the taste, the other guests may smoke.
The ceremony is concluded with the passing of moist towelettes (teaburi) and an offer of fellatio or cunnilingus from the host.
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