Saturday, June 18, 2011


My wife often enjoys watching The Food Network which has recently become inundated with competition-format cooking shows. For the uninitiated these consists of three or four contestant chefs, a host with no discernable function, and a panel of three judges (at least one of whom has learned English as a second language).  
I can't believe it's not botulism
It is always fascinating to watch the judges eat a plate of kelp pudding with trout butter and solemnly announce that the texture was “overly formal” given the consistency of the penguin broth. Just once I wish the judges would drop the pretense and say, “This tastes like hatred” or “Tell us why you decided to incorporate human feces into your dish.” I believe that the judges are contractually prohibited from uttering the phrase “this does not taste good” even though that is the most important characteristic of food. This format is used for everything from Cupcake Wars to Iron Chef America so it was no surprise when my wife’s new favorite show Chopped adopted the same template.

What separates Chopped from its peers is the fact that each participant is given a basket with several hideously-incompatible ingredients and asked to make something delicious. This leads to episodes where contestants are required to make a dessert from provolone cheese, a rutabaga, and castor oil. After each course of the meal, a chef is “chopped” if their concoction fails to rouse the imagination of the panel. These scenes of rejection are often sandwiched between personal interviews where the chef reveals their personal or financial shortcomings (this is my 5th divorce, I made a bad investment in a rattlesnake farm, I murdered a Shriner in Minnesota, etc….)

There was even an episode where one chef agonized for a full two minutes over lending his nemesis (who ended up winning) an egg. The incident was then discussed at length by the judges who reviewed an instant replay of the incident in real time. The egg’s inclusion in the winning dish was apparently so crucial that I suspect the losing chef may have taken his own life shortly thereafter out of shame.  

As the show progresses, it appears that the producers are becoming more and more extreme in the dichotomy between ingredients until they are actually placing items in the basket that should never be introduced to each other in the same dish. The idea behind this escalation is that the more diverse the ingredients the easier it is to discern which participants have culinary talent. In that spirit I have created a few “baskets” that I would like to see them feature on the show:

Basket 1
Value-Brand Soy Milk
Pork rinds
Swedish Carp
1 Human ring finger

Basket 2
Mango Pudding
New England Flank Steak
Walrus Broth
3 Centrum Multi-Vitamins
Vienna Sausages

Basket 3
Fish tacos
Chocolate frosting
Children’s Motrin
Alfredo Sauce
Corn Pops Cereal

Basket 4
2 Bald-eagle filets
1 Box of Junior Mints
Gillette Shaving Foam
Water Chestnuts
Tropical Punch Kool-Aid

From each basket the contestants would be required to create an appetizer, main course, and low-calorie smoothie. The main course must be plated in the form of a celestial constellation and the first chef eliminated will have their American citizenship revoked.

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