Infinitely more famous for his love of hamburgers than for his grasp of Japanese cuisine, Donald Trump and sushi don’t feel like a natural combination.
The Donald has spent decades boasting of his predilection for the golden arches, as well attempting to sell sub-par steak over the internet, so it seems unlikely that he has been concealing a secret love for raw fish from the American people this entire time. Then again, as a man who has liaisons crawling out of the woodwork every five minutes, anything’s possible.
Trump’s less than diplomatic approach to dinner has already been noted around the world. During his first trip to Japan, the President refused to stray from his usual fare of well-done beef burgers and French fries, despite being surrounded by some of the finest seafood on earth. This seems as good an indication as any that the Commander-in-Chief has no interest in anything that can’t be slathered in ketchup. Nevertheless, some members of the sushi community have decided to take a stand. In what is a largely symbolic gesture, Donald Trump has been discouraged from attending certain Japanese restaurants.
Though this may seem like a political bombshell, the realities of this sort-of-but-not-really-a-ban have absolutely nothing to do with the Japanese people. Though they may well have been annoyed by the President’s refusal to take so much as a sniff of sashimi, it’s been made abundantly clear that they would like nothing more than for Trump to join the rest of the sushi party. Trump’s obstacle to fishy ecstasy is in fact much closer to home.
From the early days of the 2016 presidential election campaign, it was clear that Robert De Niro did not like Donald Trump. The revered actor has been previously quoted as saying that he “would like to punch the President in the face”, as well as proclaiming that he would “walk out of any restaurant he walks in”.
The animosity between these two elder statesman of American pop-culture seemed to come to a head last week when the Daily Mail reported that De Niro had issued a blanket ban on Trump entering any branch of internationally regarded sushi franchise “Nobu” - which De Niro co-owns with chef Nobu Matsuhisa. If such an order were to stand it would seem to pour cold water on any slim chance for the President to finally move away from steak and chips and towards omega-3.
After De Niro’s declaration, it was initially unclear how on board the rest of the Nobu team were with the plan. Matsuhisa, apparently unaware of his partner’s open hostility, happily said that “It’s my dream for Trump to sit next to Bob, to make them sushi”, in what presumably would have been one of the most awkward dinners of all time. It’s tricky to see what, if anything, could have helped to break the rice.
Despite predictable bristling from both sides of the political divide, De Niro quickly denied that any blanket ban had ever been issued. By that point though, the angry cat was out of the bag. Battle lines of sushi-loving liberals and steak-obsessed conservatives had already helped to make Japanese cooking the latest subject to avoid mentioning over dinner.
What, if any impact Nobu’s approach to presidential sushi would have had on Trump’s dietary habits remains an impossible question to answer. What is clear that, if he wants to enjoy the possibility of sushi, he needs to reconsider his approach to politics before it’s too late.