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An unconventional BBQ — grill them all

by Amy Chavez

The cool spring has definitely cut into the barbecue season here on the island. I’m not resentful, just peeved. Mother Nature obviously doesn’t eat meat.

And with the rainy season now upon us, it could indeed be a very short BBQ season. The Japanese seem to have no problem grilling out on the beach on even the hottest days, but for me, barbecues are best in spring and fall.

As we were enjoying our first BBQ of the season the other day, I thought: If the purpose of barbecuing is to cook foods to make them taste better, or more palatable, why stop at meat? Why not throw some more unconventional things onto the barbecue? Even nonedible things? If it works for food, it might make other things more palatable too.

For example, who wouldn’t want to give a good roasting to the Japanese custom of amakudari, where retired bureaucrats get cushy, well-paid jobs where they are effectively paid to do nothing? Wouldn’t you like to give some of those scandal-ridden politicians a good grilling? How about bid-rigging? Or pork barreling? Get out the rotisserie! I can see the flames jumping from the BBQ already.

Some things in Japan don’t necessarily need a grilling, but could use a bit of fat trimmed off. Talking in raw figures, take the ¥30,000 (just over $300) given by guests at a wedding. Now, I’m not opposed to giving money as a wedding gift but ¥30,000 seems a bit hard to swallow. Frankly, some friends aren’t worth that much. A cash gift ought to be determined by how much the couple is worth — a laissez-faire gift. Leave it to the market to decide! If that’s not possible, since Japanese newlyweds are obliged to give you back a gift worth up to 50 percent of the value of yours, why not just give the couple ¥15,000 at the beginning and call it even? Now that’s easier to swallow.

Giving money at funerals is another thing that has always perplexed me. Why would you need money after you’re dead? Family members invariably return your donation with a small gift. So, while the family members act on the behalf of the deceased, the fact is, the deceased is the one now in debt to them. What a way to start off the afterlife! Think about this the next time you see a little tree frog with an albatross around its neck, or a kangaroo with empty pockets. They were probably reincarnated.

Other things that have been in the back of the cabinet a long time, neglected and quietly growing their own cultures, should be tossed out. Wasteful government spending in the form of bridge building and sea wall construction in the Seto Inland Sea, for example, has been allowed to continue in the background quietly ignored. I can’t swallow it myself. It just doesn’t seem fair. Chuck that on the barbie for some grilling!

This is where I suggest some small changes: Condiments! If we don’t toss something out, we should at least infuse it with some condiments to make it go down easier. So while grilling wasteful government spending, I suggest spicing it up with some grated ginger to get to the root of the problem. And please, no grinding sesame seeds (gomasuri) on this barbecue!

And by all means, for this barbecue, pass the tongs to Renho, now administrative reform minister, known for her deftness in cutting wasteful government spending. Let her slap around some meat and bang on the BBQ for a while. I have a feeling she’ll need some extra coals for a long grilling. I’d give her an extra supply of hot mustard too.

I’d like to give a personal grilling to former farm minister Hirotaka Akamatsu over the foot-and-mouth disease in Miyazaki Prefecture, which lead to the devastation of the livestock industry, not to mention the livestock themselves, who now would be more appropriately called mooless deadstock. Imagine cows not even fit for the barbie! Better add some sake to the BBQ to drown our sorrows. Sake is a condiment, isn’t it?

Let’s throw the pension system on the hot plate too, mix it with some of that recovered taxpayer money saved by grilling wasteful government spending, and put it back into the pension system. Add a good dollop of wasabi and we’ll have something palatable for our retirement.

Although I cannot find fault with the Japanese health system, I still think it makes good cooking sense to have a bottle of tare sauce on hand to sweeten it in the future.

Before we sit down to our meal, which has been grilled, browned or charred to perfection, don’t forget to first wipe your hands with the oshibori. It’s a nice way to wipe our hands clean of bribery and corruption. Prepare yourself a nice cup of green tea (or more realistically, a beer).

Now use your chopsticks, the most versatile utensils in the world, to pick through the good stuff and bad stuff. The rest is up to you. Not all burning issues can be resolved with the BBQ, but there has to be something about cooking that makes even non-edible things more palatable. Otherwise businesses wouldn’t cook the books. Have yourself a great BBQ season, whatever you decide to grill!