The following story is from the Chicken Soup for the Soul Cookbook that I bought at a second hand bookshop. I know what you're thinking. Seriously? You're telling us a story from a cookbook?
Just read it is all I'm saying. If any of you have read the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, I'll bet you know that what ever comes out of their pages is going to have some substance.
The cookbook is basically a compilation of "101 Stories with Recipes from the Heart" and each recipe has some significant tale given by the contributor. This story is so brilliantly witty, I had to share it. It was sent in by John and Kyoko Enright with their recipe for Starving Student Chicken.
Many years ago, in Japan, a starving student lived in a tiny room that happened to be just above a very fancy restaurant where rich folk came to dine. (That students starve seems to be a truly cultural universal.) The student had only one meal a day -a meager bowl of rice, which he ate in the evening before studying.
One day the student was on his way home for his frugal meal, when he chanced to meet a friend just outside the restaurant. They stopped to chat. Not surprisingly, being just before the student's meal time, they talked of food.
"It is so wonderful that I live over this restaurant," said the student to his friend. "Each night as I eat my little bowl of plain rice, I can smell the delicious odor of the wonderful food this restaurant serves, and I can imagine myself eating those tasty dishes down here with the rich folk instead of eating my rice alone up in my room. There is one chicken dish that I especially love. The garlic and pepper smell seems to creep right into my rice bowl and nourish me!"
Unfortunately, the greedy restaurant owner happened to be standing right near the door of the restaurant greeting his customers, and heard the student's words. He marched out, grabbed the student by the ear and demanded payment.
The student, horrified, protested that he had no money, but the owner simply marched him to the nearest police box and filed a complaint, insisting on payment.
By chance, court was in session at that very time, presided over by Judge Ohta. The case could be heard immediately. Judge Ohta had a wide reputation for both justice and wisdom, but the student was too caught up in his misery to realize this as the hearing started.
The owner was surprisingly eloquent in his accusation. He cited the terrible load of expenses borne by the restaurant and the need for all those who used the restaurant in any way to help meet these costs. The student's defense was pitiable: it was simply a plea that he had no money and could not pay. Judge Ohta looked thoughtful for a moment, and then began his judgement.
"Clearly," he addressed the student, "you must pay for the value you have received from the owner." If possible, the student looked even more frightened and dejected that before, while the owner, if possible, looked even more smug and righteous.
"Do you have any money with you?"
The student found a couple sen (far less than a penny) at the bottom of his very limp purse and took them out. "Rattle them together," said the judge. Bewildered, the student did so, producing a pathetically thin sound. "Good!" said Judge Ohta. "The sound of money is sufficient for the smell of food. Case Closed."
What did you think?