Thursday, September 30, 2010

Coelacanth vs. The Noodle

Coelacanth: A fairly ugly fish once thought extinct
and never served with huckleberry rémoulade.
Chopped is a televised cooking
competition. Four aspiring chefs each receive a basket containing the same ingredients--jicama, Funyuns, cardamom, and talapia filets, for example--and have to create a dish appropriate as a specific course. 

After each course, the least successful chef is "chopped." The others go on to the next round and face another basket full of surprises. 

The pace is frenetic. Creativity is valued. It's pretty good TV.

One of the basket ingredients was coelacanth. Imagine that.*  A "living fossil," a carnivorous fish about six feet long with a nervous system primarily composed of an oil-filled tube and a fat deposit: Now turn it into a dessert. 

The similarities between writing and cooking are obvious, so you can skip the next part and just leave a comment about how you cook with food or words:  ingredients that you avoid--that sort of thing...

Truth is that some cooks are terrible. My mother was a terrible cook. It has occurred to me that it might have been a way to make food last longer. Here is my reconstruction of one of my mother's recipes

The Noodle
  • Mix flour, salt, and egg until you have a ball of dough about the size of a toddler's head.
  • Roll the dough out onto a cloth diaper--not the pre-folded kind, the single layer sort.
  • Mound all available leftovers on in the middle of the noodle.
  • Lift the corners of the diapers and tie the whole thing into a bundle.
  • Put the whole thing in a bucket of boiling water and leave it until mealtime.

A properly prepared noodle can "feed" a family of seven for days, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

My mother could probably have cooked coelacanth without batting an eye. And if the judges complained, she would have whacked them with a ladle. This is why you do not want me to be your crit partner. You really don't.

* I sure imagined it. The real ingredient was geoduck, almost as primitive, but not so on the verge of extinction. 

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