Chopped Chefs Have It Easy

Cleaver in Watermelon,

I spend an obscene amount of time watching cooking shows.  Well, I at least listen to them when I’m sitting around my house on a Sunday, pretending to be working on a column.

You’ll keep that little detail just between us, right?

There’s one show called Chopped. If you’ve never seen it, they start with four chefs. In each round, they get a box of required, random, mystery ingredients, and a time limit. The chefs must figure out how to create an edible appetizer, entrée and dessert using all of their mystery box ingredients.   The competitors have access to a pantry and fridge full of other items they can use to accomplish their task.

Or, as I call it, dinner time.

Every night, I open a box of mystery ingredients I call “my cupboard,” and have to come up with an edible dinner using a box of raspberry gelatin, a can of black beans, some *almost* stale bread, and a tomato.

The bad news? Someone forgot to provide me with a fully stocked pantry and fridge.

I *might* have some milk that hasn’t turned to cheese.  There’s a non-zero possibility of finding some lunch meat, or an egg or two, but, if it’s near the end of the month? Forget about it.

I hear you out there saying, “Ah, but, you have more than 30 minutes to create that entrée, without a time limit, certainly, you have the advantage.”

No time limit? I’m not so certain that’s true.

The clock starts ticking the minute I walk in the door.  If I don’t start making something within 15 minutes from walking into the door, I am going to sit down, and relax, and it’ll never happen.  The energy to get something accomplished, including dinner, oozes out of every fiber of muscle tissue the minute I sit down.  When that happens, I’m lucky if I grab a handful of potato chips and some yogurt from the fridge and call it good.

I suspect that this is no less the case in a household with children.

In fact, I suspect that the timer is a count-down to the complete meltdown of every youngster in the place. This is likely accompanied by loud and frequent reminders that the reactor is seconds away from a cataclysmic nuclear disaster. I suspect these piercing warning signals are a significant contributing factor in reducing one’s ability to turn random cans of ingredients into actual food.

Frankly, a household of children form a panel of much more challenging critics than the star-powered celebrity chefs.  If the kids don’t like what you’ve come up with, it’s not like you will simply be eliminated from the completion.  Nope. You’re stuck. You ‘ve got to face the chopping block again, and again, and again, hoping against hope that everyone will, somehow, end the evening with enough calories and nutrition to not keep you up all night with demands for food.

If I could get out of the competition just by disappointing the judges? Believe me,  I’d start playing to lose.