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.