Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Reality Show Blogging: The Horror, the Horror. . .

In the past few months, I've actually moved beyond random dating, and met someone who not only can I stand to be around for more than a few hours, and who (more importantly) can stand me for more than a few hours. And, as you might guess, I'm happy about this. However, one of the unfortunate aspects of being in a relationship for a lot of straight men is having to watch "The Bachelor." For some reason, my significant other is enthralled by this show and being the dutiful boyfriend requires me to watch with her. Of course, this obligates her to watch all the crap I like as well.

Anyway, in my entire life, I have watched two episodes of the Bachelor, and its still not my cup of tea. The Bachelor is. . .dull. Sure, he's got a six-pack, etc., but wow, is this guy dull. Apparently, he was on before, and in a surprising act of honesty, didn't pick either of the finalists. Given that none of the other Bachelors have ever married their picks, much less dated them for any length of time after the show ended. For refusing to take part in the charade, he became a hated man. Still, he strikes me as a decent human being, but completely disinteresting.

What is interesting, and is always interesting in these shows, is how competitive the women get. The first season of "Flavor of Love," where women fought over the affection of Flavor Flav for no apparent reason other than being on television, is a prime example. But given the distinct lack of any discernible personality of the current Bachelor, this season of the Bachelor is right up there. In a few short weeks, numerous women have proclaimed their intense love for the Bachelor, and the cat fighting has begun. The biggest surprise is that the woman who wore fangs in the first episode left the show because she realized she was on it for the wrong reasons.

Anyway, last night's episode made watchable by the crazy antics of a hairdresser from Utah named Michelle. She talked ill of the other contestants and by all appearances, seemed much more interested in the Bachelor than anyone else. Indeed, when on a group date, she actually attacked the poor man for bringing other women along repelling down a cliff or something. She then went to his room and tried to get the Bachelor to change his mind about several other women. All the while, she gave interviews with the producers that screamed, "crazy."

So, I have to admit that at the end of the show, I felt like I was watching a horror movie, wanting to yell out to the Bachelor, "Watch out Brad, she CRAZY!!!" The last 15 minutes, were therefore enjoyable. As for predictions - the woman who's husband died and then she bore his kid is a mortal lock for the finals.

Top Chef:

It occurs to me that I haven't blogged about Top Chef All-Stars yet, and I need to fix that, particularly in light of last week's episode surrounding Rao's Restaurant. As an Italian American, the episode was of particular interest to me because I could actually make a lot of the food shown.

The biggest mistake, of course, was the pasta course, where two contestants tried to make fresh pasta, and one attempted to make risotto. All were. . .less than ideal. Here's the thing about Italian food - its made by home cooks. Unlike the French, there was no King or nobility to really impress (well, there were, but they didn't last that long), so Italian food developed with family in mind. Indeed, Italian women develop power in their communities based upon their cooking abilities.*

That's not to say that Italian food is easy to cook - its not, because everyone cooks it slightly differently. Its also really easy for chefs to screw up because Italian cooks are all self-taught, whereas most chefs are trained in professional kitchens. And that's what we saw in the last episode.

The big sin was the use of fresh pasta over dried pasta. In the Northern part of Italy, where the wheat is soft, people make their own pasta. But in the South, where the wheat is hard, everyone cooks dried pasta. For my money, dried pasta is more consistent, better quality, and holds sauces better than fresh pasta. The only time I use fresh pasta is when I make a stuffed pasta like ravioli. But to make fresh pasta without any stuffing was madness. Had I been one of the chefs, I probably would've gone with manicotti - crepes stuffed with ricotta and baked in tomato sauce.

Tre's risotto was apparently an even worse sin against Italian food. Even though I didn't grow up with risotto (its a Northern thing), I have since learned how to make it, and the best risottos are loose, creamy, and contain only a few ingredients. The whole thing is a trick - its a way to make a cheap ingredient (rice) taste like a more expensive ingredient (cream).

I do think that Antonia winning for a steamed mussels dish was a bit of a stretch, but again, Italian food is all about the home cook and the relationships that people make with the home cook. So, if her mussels tasted like Grandma's** she was going to win.

*I'm not even remotely kidding about this. My Grandma became fiercely competitive with my mother after learning that Mom can cook - even refusing to teach her how to make manicotti. See, the best cooks have everyone over to their house for dinner and become the hub of all social activities.

**Actually, as far as I know, my Grandma didn't make mussels, though given her abilities in the kitchen, she probably could.

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