Can’t pronounce it? Don’t eat it

I watched a cooking show on television a few days ago. It was … interesting. It was a competition, and the four contestants were charged with preparing food someone could actually eat, using totally weird ingredients.

Each section had its own basket of ingredients, and the contestants were required to make an appetizer from the first basket, a main dish from the next basket and, lastly, a dessert. Each section was timed, and after each section one cook was “chopped,” or dismissed and the last cook standing at the end was the winner.

At the beginning, the contestants introduced themselves, with a great many comments bragging on their particular culinary training and special expertise and experience.

They had “judges” who sampled the foods and then gave their opinions, usually beginning with compliments and ending with put-downs.

I think the person who chose the ingredients the contestants had to use “in some way,” as the moderator announced, had a sick sense of humor. It was pointed out there would be an emphasis on creativity using the ingredients, which was easily understood. Many of the ingredients they had to use I’d never heard of, and of the ones I had, the choices seemed strange.

For example, one appetizer basket contained watermelon, canned sardines, pepper jack cheese and zucchini. This is better than most of the baskets. At least I recognized those items — not like some ingredient lists which are challenging to say the least.

One episode included lamb fries. We’ve always eaten calf fries, but we were cattle people so apparently we missed out on the lamb testicles. Oh well…

This brings me to my cowboy father’s food advice: Never eat something you can’t pronounce. Almost always they have at least one ingredient I have no clue about, even after they show a picture of it. For example, did you know there are a gazillion kinds of cheese? I didn’t either. There are many, many melons as well.

When the dessert round included catfish and cherry soda I excused myself and went outside. I’m sure those chefs showed a great deal of creativity with that particular combination.

The judging is … different. After all, the judges have watched the cooks as they worked, so that cuts down on questions like, “How did you fillet this fish?” but allows for comments like, “Did you realize you didn’t clean your cutting board between ingredient preparations?”

Often, it seems these hot-shot chefs cut themselves. I wonder if they’re nervous or simply in a hurry. Either way, plastic gloves don’t quite make what they prepare after the cut seem appetizing.

I’ve noticed the older contestant chefs usually have an advantage. I think my dad said that the best, also: “Old age and treachery will overcome skill and youth every time.”

Too bad the Food Channel doesn’t have a contest for chuckwagon cooks. My dad’s sourdough biscuits couldn’t be beat.