Slithery sustenance. The Japanese love kabayaki—grilled eel in a sweet, soy-based sauce—so much, they have even dedicated an entire day to eating it. On Ushinohi, which is celebrated in August, eel restaurants all over Japan do a booming business; politicians are sometimes photographed smiling as they dine on their kabayaki; and, according to Charmaine Solomon’s Encyclopedia of Asian Food
, 900 tons of eel are consumed. The eel is served over rice and is thought to be restorative in the enervating August heat. A Dictionary of Japanese Food
calls kabayaki "one of Japan’s great treats," and a Japanese friend confirms that Japanese people would consider it right up there with sushi and tempura as a representative food of their country. These days though, she confesses, not everybody eats kabayaki straight from the grill as a connoisseur would insist. "Nowadays you can buy it in the supermarket and microwave it."