The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Grazie mille!

Monday, January 31, 2011

"Worst Cooks In America": The Halfway Point

I just finished watching "Worst Cooks in America" on Food Network. The competition is at the halfway point with eight of the original sixteen remaining at the outset of tonight's show.

And I'm still amazed that these eight people have survived to adulthood.

Okay, even though I write about food, I'm far from being an epicure or a gourmand. I know a lot about a little and a little about a lot, but I've still got a lot more to learn. If we're honest with ourselves, we all do. It's a natural part of life.

That said, I continue to be shocked by the absolute absence of any kind of food sense being exhibited by these people. Come clean, Food Network! These have got to be ringers! Nobody is that stupid!

Case in point, the exchange between Kelsey and Georg as they prepared veal with lemon sauce: "What's veal?" "I don't know. Deer meat, I think. No, that's venison. I don't know. What is veal?"

And then came Joshie, who for the life of him could not tell the difference between pork tenderloin and -- ready for this -- bacon! Okay, he's Jewish. Maybe pork tenderloin and bacon were not in his fridge as a child, but for cryin' out loud, has the guy never seen a BLT or a plate of bacon and eggs? C'mon! I say again, nobody is that stupid?

Actually, the whole "skill drill" portion of the show was an exercise in stupidity. See, the chefs left the contestants a recipe for what they were supposed to prepare. The hook came in that the recipe had been jumbled up and the contestants had to try to put it in its proper order before attempting to cook the dish.

"I always have trouble with recipes," said one woman. My God, woman! Can't you read? How can you "have trouble" with a recipe? It's a list of ingredients and a set of step-by-step instructions. How much simpler can a process be?

Then again a recipe is only as good as the person reading it. One of the dishes Anne Burrell's team was supposed to prepare was a chunky applesauce. The instructions clearly read, "Cut apples into 1/2 inch chunks." Okay, so Kat whacks four apples into quarters and throws them in the pan.

At least she got the right pan. Brain trust Ty, working on mashed potatoes, was instructed to boil the potatoes "in a medium saucepan." So he hauls out the biggest damn stock pot in the place and fills it over halfway with water and then can't seem to figure out why the water is taking so long to boil and why his potatoes aren't done. And he does this twice, repeating the same mistake in the next section.

Kelsey and Georg were proud of the fact that they had previously learned how to make a roux, so, despite clearly written instructions to "whisk a teaspoon of cornstarch into 1/4 cup of cold water," they assumed that there was no difference between cornstarch and flour and just dumped the cornstarch into a hot pan with the water and started whisking away. To their credit, when the inevitable lump started to form, they went back and read the recipe, and were able to correct the error.

You know, if these were second or third-graders, I could understand. But we're talking adults, here. Full-grown, well-educated adults with jobs and families. As she struggled mightily -- and unsuccessfully -- with some potato pancakes, Jen tearfully admitted that her nine-year-old could make pancakes, but she couldn't. Which begs the question, "Where did your nine-year-old learn?" And the woman is an OR nurse. It is fervently hoped that she is better able to follow a doctor's instructions than she is a chef's. And if she can't mix ingredients in a recipe, I'm not sure I want her anywhere near my meds.

So much of cooking is just common sense, but these exaggerated examples of "The Worst Cooks in America" apparently are just uncommonly senseless. Clearly, these are the people food manufacturers have to keep in mind when printing, "Remove from box and cook before eating" on packages of frozen foods.

Ooops! Wait a minute. Wouldn't that be something like a recipe?

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