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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Value of Learning How to Cook Steak

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While congratulating me on the completion of an experimental prototype, the chief engineer at the research institute where I headed a department told me the following:

"It's a shame that your design uses a device made by Hewlett-Packard, which isn't provided for in the ministry's financial plan. Only Mr. P. can authorize additional grants. Try to convince him, although I doubt you'll have any luck. He's considered to be a very difficult type in the ministry."

And so, armed with a letter from the director of my institute, I went in search of P. From his reception room, I could see his desk, and lying on top of some papers were a pair of horn-rimmed glasses.

"If his glasses are on the table, it means that Pavel Andreyevich is here in the ministry," explained his secretary, recommending that I return in an hour.

I decided to get a bite to eat and headed for a cafe next door. It was full, but I saw an empty place. Sitting at the table was a imposing-looking gray-haired man who was reading Kommersant and waiting for his food to arrive. "May I?" I asked.

"Be my guest," he said, without even looking up. The waitress came up with a tray on which was a large plate with a steak, a salad, a shot of vodka and a glass of juice. "Thank you, Verochka," the man said as he put down his paper and started eating.

"And what will you have?" asked the waitress.

My neighbor pointed at his plate with his fork. "I recommend it. It's not expensive."

I took my neighbor's advice and had no regrets.

We got talking. Or rather my neighbor did the talking and I listened. It was a scientifically grounded lecture on the qualities of different types of steak and the many ways of preparing them. He was very passionate about the subject, and that I was listening to him with interest clearly pleased him. After finishing his lunch my neighbor left the cafe. Soon I did too.

The door to Pavel Andreyevich's office was closed, but his secretary said: "I told him about you. You can go in."

But before I could open the door a young man with a file tucked under his arm rushed in first.

Sitting behind the desk was a man reading Kommersant. When he put it down I froze: It was my lunch companion from the cafe. A faint smile flickered at the corners of mouth.

He spoke brusquely as if seeing me for the first time, but stretched out his hand for my letter. Having read it, without further ado he wrote "Approved" at the top. And handing the letter back to me added: "Don't forget -- make sure it's red-hot."

I understood: rare steak should be cooked in a red-hot pan.

Pavel Andreyevich, unconcerned by my presence, was already shouting at the young man:

"There's no point in trying to persuade me! I said no and that's the end of it."

Vladislav Schnitzer is a journalist and pensioner living in Moscow.