I never liked cucumbers until dinner on night at a friend's house. This friend was fascinated with the Japanese -- their culture, their country, their food. And when she married she was determined it would be to a Japanese man.

For this dinner, she had spent hours preparing an amazing Japanese meal and we were appreciative.

But, the most memorable part of the complicated dinner was an uncomplicated plate of marinated cucumbers set on the table to keep us occupied while the main dishes were being removed from the wok.

The cucumbers were quartered into strips and seasoned with soy sauce and spices.

Since then, I've tried to recreate my friend's recipe (since then, she has married a Japanese) and have discovered that exact measurements aren't important. You can use as much or as little as you like of any of the spices (depending on your own prejudices) and the result will still be wonderful. The marinade will keep for a while in the refrigerator and you can just keep adding cucumbers.

Here then is my rendition of my friend's recipe:

MARINATED CUCUMBERS

1 cup sesame oil

2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 to 3 minced garlic cloves

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

5 to 6 medium cucumbers

Combine the oil and spices and mix well. Quarter the cucumbers lengthwise and cut in half. Marinate the cucumbers at least 30 minutes (the longer, the better). If you go for longer, it's best to slip the cucumbers and marinade into the refrigerator.