Tuesday, January 27, 2009


THE UNAGI PARAMETERS


On Sunday we took the bridge across the Lake to visit a superb unagi (eel) restaurant in Omihachiman we'd heard about that was quite expensive, but moneywise I've always figured respectively as in this instance: would you rather have delicious broiled eel brushed with the finest sauce arranged atop perfectly cooked white rice beside quality pickles and miso soup on a lacquered tray amidst the serene environs of a fine traditional establishment, or a piece of paper with governmental assurances and the picture of a dead person on it? As usual with such internal dialogs, it wasn't "no contest," it was "there was a contest"?

As I drove, Echo was elaborating on the types of eel dishes they offered at the restaurant, at some point saying there's one that's sort of like an unadon (unagi donburi), but in which they cut the eel into small pieces and mix it with the rice, at which point I instantly responded as though I didn't want to hear another word, and with such severity that I surprised myself: since when did I have such severe opinions about eel meals? Cursory self-examination revealed that I had no idea. I enjoy the occasional fish and I am a fancier of the traditional eel bento, teishoku etc.; in fact, when pressed I consider myself somewhat of an eel liberal; but fanatic or gourmand I'm not.

Yet here I was practically yelling that I absolutely, no, no, no, did not want a dish that in fact I had never heard of before, and with such adamance that I was instantly puzzled, so when we got to the relatively relaxing main road I began to explore mental regions where some complex underground aspects of RB were apparently living unbeknownst to myself, sort like a Viet Cong of the mind. I am often surprised at discovering that I know things I'd had no idea I knew, but this was the first time I had so strongly held an opinion of which I was unaware. Life is always new territory.

Later, as I ate my delicious meal, my continuing explorations in the netherness led me to discover that at some point in my Japanolife I had unknowingly evolved what, for simplicity's sake, I'll call the E/R ratio. Over my decades of effort at unconsciously but steadfastly developing eel opinions, I had apparently set down the Broiled Eel Parameters, parameters that were severely violated by this variation Echo had been describing to me.

Figuratively lifting up a rock in my brain, I discovered that the E/R ratio involved the correct proportion of eel to rice. I have instinctively evolved what is for me the perfect ratio, which must be maintained or the whole delicious construct falls apart, don't you see? Cutting the eel up into small pieces and mixing it willy-nilly with the rice is not only a sign of mental instability, it it is an extreme and unwarranted usurpation of the supremely established Broiled Eel Parameters, a violation so extreme as to induce my sudden and understandably emotional response.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the bento; I leave that other spurious method of eel preparation for the troublemakers who lack the fundamental underpinnings that lift society to a certain level of gastronomic discernment.

1 comment:

Gina said...

Over here in Germany we have different eel recipes too. What I like best is smoked eel fresh from the smoke in the little town in North Germany, Eckernförde where I was born.
We don't make a big fuss about it. Some nice whole grain dark bread, real butter! is a must! and the smoked eel.

Let the elsewheres mix it with rice ...

Bon appet-eeling !!

Gina