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The Yakiniku Experiment October 6, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Ramblings.

The one question I’m asked the most by people back home is, “Do you cook?”

The simple answer: no, I don’t. I have few talents, and culinary expertise is not one of them. If stranded on a deserted island with only a supply of eggs to sustain me until help arrives (assuming the cholesterol won’t kill me first), I would probably break them all uselessly or burn them hopelessly, two outcomes I’m familiar with the only two other times I tried to cook an egg – which, by the way, I don’t much enjoy eating. So most of the time that I’m here in New York, I go for much of the usual fare “to go” that can be had for around $5.

I’ve also always thought that cooking is an extremely inefficient activity, more so for a person eating alone. By inefficient, I refer only to the time it takes to prepare a meal. Certainly, a good case can be made that, barring exotic, exquisite, or otherwise pricey ingredients, a person will always come out ahead cooking for oneself. But cooking takes an inordinate amount of time – from preparing the ingredients, doing the actual cooking, and thereafter cleaning up – especially when one considers how much shorter it takes to simply eat the meal. A pathetic analysis, I know; but it is what it is.

So no, I don’t cook. But I do grill.

There is a difference. Grilling is to cooking as sudoku is to math: it can give the illusion that a person is good at it, but really one has little to do with the other. Anyone can grill; it’s idiot-proof. Take any slab of meat appropriate for grilling (which is most anything, really), season it any which way and throw it on a hot enough grill, and a person can fashion himself or herself the greatest chef in the world. Yet anything grilled tastes practically the same, with minute variations in flavor: in my case, those flavors have rotated somewhere between bland and salt and peppered. This is how I have been living on those occasions when I prepare food for myself, thanks in part to a $20 grill that bears the name of one Rev. George Foreman.

Recently, however, while ruminating on this sad state of affairs, an idea dawned on me: why don’t I try grilling meat Yakiniku style? It saves on time (one eats as one grills) and preparation (no real need to marinade), and I already have the necessary equipment (a grill is a grill is a grill, after all). Further, considering the variety of Japanese and Korean grilling sauces out there to accompany such food, it certainly began looking like a very appealing improvement my salt and pepper dining experience.

One visit to an Oriental grocery store and two meals later, I’m proud to report that the experiment was a resounding success! I wonder why I never thought of this before. At least now I can look forward to more flavor in my self-prepared menu.

So long as I remember to buy the damned sauces next time.



1. Jon Z. - October 7, 2006

bah, your survival chef skills are weak. 😛

cooking only takes as long as the instant noodles packets say.

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