skip to Main Content

The Butterfly Effect, Part 5

The Butterfly Effect
Part 5: A food "personality"

Iron Chef

KagaI’ve always had a thing for foreign television. I love the glimmerings of insight into other cultures, as expressed through the lens of the glowing box. Television is in many ways simultaneously the zenith and nadir of modern culture, a place where anything can happen, for better or worse.

Our first major foreign TV obsession, in the early-mid-nineties, was a game show on Univision called El Gran Juego de la Oca. This was played on a large game board, like the game of Life, in an expansive studio. Contestants would roll "dice" (using a remote control; the dice would just appear digitally on-screen). They would progress the number of spaces rolled, at which point the host would inflict torture upon them for money.

The forms of torment were varied and arcane. In one case, a woman had to dive into a pool of water and navigate through a maze of netting. Along the way there were occasional barriers of netting that had to be cut through … because the oxygen was on the other side. In another case, a woman (they were mostly women) had to adorn a big, puffy suit and enter a cage full of snarling German shepards to pull sticks of "dynamite" off the walls, extract herself mostly intact, and use the "dynamite" to blow open a box which contained one of the svelte, scantily-clad assistants that just lounged around the board like Christmas tree ornaments.

Some of the Herculean tasks were more benign. Another (yes, female) contestant had to wear a suit covered in bird seed, lay on the floor and be pecked by chickens — while they asked her to do math problems in her head. (Martha claims this is the cruelest one of all…) Another time one had to visually assess three of the hunky, gold-Speedoed ornamental men, then tell which was which by fondling their chests while blindfolded.

Of course all of this was in rapid-fire Madrileño Spanish, which we didn’t understan a word of. As each stunt was being assembled, the announcer would be rattling away like a machine gun. Our blood pressure would rise, hoping he was explaining how safe each of these stunts were, or at least how well insured the show was. True to form for many Spanish-language shows, Oca ran for something like three and a half hours. It was a grand way to blow a Sunday afternoon.

Oca stopped running around 1995 or ’96, and we were left without a new source of quirky, incomprehensible entertainment. But it wasn’t long before our other friends who were fans of international esoterica alerted us to something else. A ground-breaking show that had everyone scratching their heads yet unable to tear themselves away. A cooking show from Japan — but not just a cooking show. It was also like a game show. No, more like sports. Well, if you consider professional wrestling a sport. If my memory serves me correctly, this show was of course Iron Chef.

Read More

The Butterfly Effect, part 3

The Butterfly Effect
Part 3: A meal

French Laundry


A few years ago, well before Thomas Keller expanded his influence to New York, we received a pleasant surprise in our email inboxes one day. The subject line was, "Mr Keller requests the pleasure of your company." In point of fact, Mr Keller was not personally inviting us, but our dear friends Cam and Anita were. They were lucky enough to land a reservation for four, and we were lucky enough to be their third and fourth wheels. The one catch was that it was a 9 pm reservation on a Tuesday, but when Mr Keller beckons, you snap to.

We arrived at the restaurant shortly before our allotted time, after having met our friends at their bed and breakfast, Maison Fleurie, and enjoyed a nice bottle of white wine and balmy evening air on the roof deck. Anita checked in with the host, who suggested we wait in the garden while they got our table ready. It was a pleasant night, so we thought that was a perfectly delightful idea. And so we sat in the garden, chatted, admired the herb gardens and watched the evening light fade.

After a while it occurred to us that we had been waiting for some time, so Anita went to check in and get an update. Moments later, she came storming back toward us with the real maitre d’ hot on her heels, all but scraping and bowing in her wake. It turns out that whoever we checked in with was not the host, and that person had never communicated our arrival to the host, and so they thought we were a no-show and gave our table away. He offered first to give us a seating the next night, which we could not do. (We had, after all, just driven over an hour to get to this place.) So, instead, we would be seated that night, as soon as a table could be made available, and in the meantime they would begin our amuse-bouches and some champagne while we waited in the garden; plus, they would comp the wine pairings and the foie gras course. We decided that was a suitable arrangement.

Read More

The Butterfly Effect, part 1

I’ve been tagged by Ilva, she of the fabulous Lucullian Delights, on this intriguing meme. Ilva never fails to amaze me with her gorgeous photography and delicious recipes. Of course, I’m a staunch Italophile, and as she’s based in Pistoia, Tuscany, she’s got my undivided attention.

The meme, The Butterfly Effect, originated at Dan Perlman’s Salt Shaker, with the following proposition:

My thought in this meme is food items or events that changed your foodie life. Not some “oh, it’s the first time I didn’t put jelly on a peanut butter sandwich and used bananas instead” sort of change, unless you truly feel that affected you profoundly. That’s the key – it affected you profoundly, in some manner. A moment you can look back at and say “that was a defining moment”. The questions are simple, the answers might be harder – an item, person, event, or place that had that effect on you, and why. They don’t have to be big splashy things – sometimes it’s something very small and simple that changes the way we view the world – the famed “butterfly effect” (and I’m not talking about the Aston Kutcher movie). So, to those who want to participate, copy this and pass it on (and, if you’re so inclined, do a trackback to the originating post). Here are your categories:

1. An ingredient
2. A dish, a recipe
3. A meal (in a restaurant, a home, or elsewhere)
4. A cookbook or other written work
5. A food “personality” (chef, writer, etc.)
6. Another person in your life

Like Ilva, and Tana before her, I will take on this challenge in six separate posts. And to spread the love, I am tagging the following food bloggers to cogitate over the same things: Garrett at Vanilla Garlic, Martha at 2 Tasty Ladies (though she’s just left on vacation…), Sam at Becks & Posh (as fodder for her upcoming Blogathon), Adam at Bloghungry and Anni at Life Is a Banquet. I very much look forward to everyone’s postings! My first after the jump.

Read More
Back To Top