First Person


The best thing about this whole writing gig is the ability to work from home. What’s even better is that I don’t bother feigning any sort of professionalism by toiling away in my home office. Nope, I wander all over the house, a laptop-laden nomad roaming the arid, writer’s block desert. Whether I find inspiration in the kitchen, family room or bedroom, the one common denominator is the television.

Because I watch a crapton of television while I work.

I use the word “watch” loosely as most shows provide white noise to drown out the random thoughts clanging around in my brain. There are, however, a few shows that actually get my full attention. My new obsession is the Cooking Channel’s “Chopped.”

For those unfamiliar with “Chopped,” the concept is that four chefs get a basket full of mystery ingredients with which to create one course of a meal. The cooks have to survive three rounds (appetizer, entrée and dessert) of surprise ingredients with one person getting chopped by the judges each round. Oh, and the prep time for each round is 20 to 30 minutes.

Piece of cake, right?

Considering I have neither heard of nor would I eat at least half the ingredients the contestants are provided, I began to ponder my fascination with the show. I mean, it’s not like I am picking up tips on how to fry up some eel.

So what gives?

Maybe it is the fact that this show is stressful and chaotic, just like my kitchen. When I am trying to prepare a meal, supervise homework and find cleats and shin guards with less than a half hour to get to practice, I might as well be in the “Chopped” kitchen. I am sweating, yelling and sure that I am not going to plate a meal in time. If they added a barking dog darting underfoot to the “Chopped” formula, they could just film it right here in my house.

Or much like the show, I do not use recipes. Foraging for non-spoiled, edible ingredients in the fridge and pantry is like a basket full of surprises every night. I’m not a big planner in general and meal time is no exception. I am a cupboard cook, winging it until I stumble on something palatable. On the rare occasion that I do have a recipe, it is not in my DNA to follow it. I add more chocolate, a splash of orange juice or less salt on a whim to make it a stand-out dish. Sometimes my originality pays off and other times my creativity gets a big thumbs-down from my three judges whose tastes vary wildly.

The one thing I know for sure is that the “Chopped” judges ain’t got nothing on my in-house critics. You know, the ones that I carried for nine months and am tasked with loving unconditionally. They need a whole chapter in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” devoted to your future offspring’s disdain for everything you cook. Providing nutrition to your kids in utero is your last chance at total control over food choices. AND NO ONE WARNS YOU! By my estimation, I have been on the chopping block for almost two decades. In that time, I have rarely won over all three judges unless I am dialing Dominos.

In reality, I wish someone would just chop me already and send me on my way. If only there were another contestant in the wings waiting to take my spot, some days I would gladly pack my knives and let the credits roll.