Book excerpt: ‘Japan, Funny Side Up’ explains Kobe Beef
The following is an excerpt from “Japan, Funny Side Up,” by Amy Chavez.
What is Kobe beef and what could make it 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 pastures. They’re off to weddings. Do you think herds ever crash receptions? And calf weddings? I wonder what PETA 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 be cloning the 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. Perhaps Kobe cows can low to the tune of “Ninety-Nine 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 traditional Japanese “enka” tunes. No wonder the break in tradition. So, now they drink beer. I wonder if in the future they’ll drink whisky and water?
“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 UFO’s.
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.
Agura Beef cow commercials on YouTube are hilarious
If you’re headed to Hiroshima “Get Hiroshima” has everything you need!
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Sword Tip: “Odah stoppoo” is borrowed English, meaning “Order stop.” Translated into real English, it means “this is your last chance to order more food before the kitchen closes for the evening.” Compare it to “Last call” for drinks.
Sparring Japanese: Moo! (pronounced m-oh) Now you know how to moo in Japanese!
This is an excerpt from “Japan, Funny Side Up,” by Amy Chavez.