If you have been a regular reader of my column over the past 28 (!!) years, I think it’s fairly obvious by now that I am not a high-society, classy lady. In fact, I own my redneck, hillbilly title quite proudly!
Suffice to say, I am also not known for ANY sort of culinary talent. And I do NOT have a sophisticated palate for fine dining. I actually panic at the thought of going to a swanky restaurant. My stomach and I cannot tolerate spices of any kind – even pepper. Condiments? Just a teeny, tiny dab of Heinz ketchup, please. Salads? Can’t stand the texture of the lettuce and that slimy salad dressing makes my skin crawl.
My family and friends think I am a weirdo. Heck, I know that I am a weirdo – but for the most part, I am a nice weirdo!
Two years ago we celebrated my birthday up at Lake Erie. It is tradition in our family for everyone to choose a restaurant for one’s birthday dinner. We usually make the drive to Pittsburgh because there are so many great restaurants down there. We were shooting from the hip, not knowing the Erie area, plus it was early evening and we had 2 little ones and, quite frankly, we were all tired from a day spent on the beach. I had no idea of where to dine at that evening. We were traveling in 2 vehicles, Pap Steve and I and the 2 granddaughters in my Traverse and our son, daughter and son-in-law in another SUV. We passed one of those roadside little dairy huts – you know the ones I am talking about, they sell soft-serve ice cream and hot dogs and hamburgers and fries. The line snaked around the building; it was obviously a popular place. I pressed my face longingly to the SUV’s window and sighed. “This, this is the place that I would love to celebrate my birthday at,” I exclaimed. “Let’s do it then,” said my saint of a husband. I knew the others would not be keen on eating there, plus there were literally no tables left to sit down at. I don’t remember where we ended up eating, other than that it was a chain restaurant. I do, however, recall vividly that the first words out of my son’s mouth in the parking lot were, “I figured we would be stopping at that dairy hut place!” Bah – the boy knows his Mama so well!
Now that I have confessed my deep, dark secret about food, it is probably shocking to you that I watch some cooking shows on television! Well, not the ones where you cook along with the hosts… that would be stretching things. I watch Chopped, Top Chef and Cupcake Wars. Chopped is about 4 chefs competing against each other. There are 3 rounds of competition and each round has a basket of mystery food items that the chefs must use. These mystery basket food items are strange – and that’s putting it mildly… there could be squid ink, green tea leaves, cheese balls, maple syrup and cold smoked kippers in that basket and you MUST incorporate everything into either an appetizer, entrée or dessert – in 30 minutes.
Now, let’s close our eyes and pretend that I am a chef (stop laughing, we are pretending) and on Chopped. I would open my mystery basket, look at the ingredients, dump everything on a plate and then tell the judges that I’m heading out to get a hog dog from one of the street vendors!
Top Chef usually has around 14 top-notch chefs competing at once. I love the drama and bickering. These chefs are skilled and talented and also pretty egotistical. The judges, for the most part, think they are all that and a ball of wax – except for Tom. I like Tom; he’s a cool dude. I am confused by Padma’s role on the show. She knows her food, I give her that – but her constant display of her, errr… very impressive décolletage is distracting. Why, Padma, why? It’s supposed to be about the chefs and their culinary talents – not your boobies!
All this talk about food has made me hungry. I do believe that I shall meander out to my kitchen and whip up something marvelous. Anyone care to join me? I am creating a favorite of mine —- Chef Boyardee Pizza, plain, of course. Ohhhh, me so classy!