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Monday, May 20, 2002

JAPAN LITE

Kobe beef's secret: nice alcoholic cows


As we enter the barbecue season, that tiny lovely sliver of a season stuck between "o-hanami" and the rainy season, the question on everyone's mind is: What is Kobe beef? And what could make Kobe beef so special that people willingly pay over 10,000 yen for a steak?

I was with a Japanese friend, eating at one of our favorite Japanese restaurants, when I decided to ask her, "What is Kobe beef?"

"Two nice cows . . . marry them," she said. "This nice cow and this nice cow . . . make nice baby cow," she continued in minimalist Zen English, leaving out prepositions and articles. "Then . . . nice baby cow and nice baby cow marry . . . they make nice, nice baby cow. Nice, nice baby cow, it's Kobe beef," she said while passing me the raw horse meat.

But I was left wondering how they addressed the wedding invitations: Elsie and Herman, Bar 2 Ranch, pasture No. 7? Now I know what happens when cows occasionally escape from their paddocks. They are off to weddings. Do you think herds ever crash receptions?

And calf weddings? I wonder what the animal rights activists would think of that.

With all that work to try to marry and remarry to create the perfect cow, Kobe cows should be in high demand for cloning. But I've never understood why scientists would want to clone cows anyway. Shouldn't they being trying to clone steaks instead?

There are many different kinds of beef in Japan. Matsuzaka beef is from Mie Prefecture, Jinseki beef is from Hiroshima and Chia beef is from Okayama. But Kobe beef, from Kobe, is the most famous.

I asked another Japanese friend, "Why is Kobe beef so special?"

"They raise the cows politely" he said. "They brush the cows kindly and feed the cows beer. They drink 700 ml -- one or two bottles -- of beer a day."

Alcoholic cows! So that's where they get those beer bellies from. Perhaps Kobe cows can low to the tune of "99 Bottles of Beer in the Trough."

"Long ago, they drank sake," my friend pointed out.

How traditional. I could see the Kobe cows staggering underneath the cherry blossoms and belching out "enka." No wonder the break in tradition. So, now they drink beer. I wonder if in the future they'll drink "mizuwari"?

"The cows don't move, so they get fat," he continued. "And they're massaged every day."

Massage! Shiatsu? Facial massages? I was sure he would tell me next that they have cow beauty salons in Kobe too. After all, cows must get those false eyelashes from somewhere. And if there are cow beauty salons, I bet they get lots of requests for nostril reductions. You have to admit -- cows have huge nostrils. Which brings up an important cow nostril question: When cows graze, they must breathe in through their noses, right? So, shouldn't cows have lots of bugs up their noses?

Imagine being a gnat in the grass when such a large nostril comes along and sucks you up. Hijacked by a nostril! To bugs, hovering cow nostrils surely belong in the category of UFOs.

But not Kobe cows. They're probably not allowed to graze. Besides, with such a rigorous schedule of drinking and getting massaged, they probably need to keep their nostrils clear for aromatherapy.

Contact Amy at amychavez2000@yahoo.com or visit the "Japan Lite" home page at www.amychavez.com


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