December 20th, 2011


Edge of Winter

I finally made it over to Wilderstead yesterday. Everything was in good shape. Took a little walk across the creek. Then I pushed on to the north edge of Cincy. Went by Jungle Jim's and got all the stuff I needed there (especially the bangers for the Crew campout). Went to Bass Pro next, and was rather disappointed with what was on offer. Didn't find what I was looking for.

By this time, it was getting dark and I was shaky-tired from all the driving of the day. So, I went back out to the holler instead of driving home. Built a cozy fire and worked on Philmont stuff. Went to bed earlier than my wont.

Woke up this morning feeling refreshed. Outdoors, it was still as black as the inside of a cow, but the clock said it was pushing 7, so I stayed up. Lit the lantern and got the space heater going. Made coffee. I had everything cleaned up and all chores done and I was heading for the gate by 8:00. Got back to E-ville before 11:00.

The picture accompanying this post was taken in the gray early light this morning. The creek constantly remakes itself, cutting and filling now this way, now that. After excavating a new pool above the big one, the creek has deposited the rocks in such a way to make a new little cataract -- the third above the ford below my property. It was splashing and spouting this morning. I could even see the flash of light on it from the cabin.

New cataract on the Pishon New cataract on the Pishon Early morning after a night's rain

hound of heaven

We have powers beyond your human understanding

There was one lonely Better Cheddar left in the fridge, so I heated it up to eat while I made a salad. Sassafras loped in to check out the interesting smell. Alas, she can't be given goodies like this any more. I set the half-eaten sausage in its bun on the counter, very carefully, and began to assemble my salad.

I swear, I didn't knock anything or disturb anything, but the blamed thing rolled off the counter and hit the floor. I picked it up before Sassy could eat it, but she'd already licked one end, which meant that I couldn't finish it, either. Waste of a nice treat in both our eyes.

Thinking it over, I find it disturbing to contemplate a dog with telekinetic powers. What else can she do that she's not telling us?
camp cook

Thinking about The Latest Iron Chef

Reading the comments on the blogs pertaining to The Next Iron Chef, and talking with people live about other reality shows, I am amazed to see how many people assume that reality competition shows are all rigged. "They already know who they want" is how people say it.

The thought had occurred to me now and again, I'll admit. But then I saw Chopped Champions last year. The final battle for the whole enchilada was between Aron Sanchez, who is not only a great cook and a great TV personality but one of the Chopped judges, against Nate Appleman, who is kind of awkward and arrogant at the same time. But Sanchez made a chocolate cake in the last course, and it was just a bit dry. Appleman looked shocked that he'd won. If there was a script, someone didn't tell the judges.

Now, I still think that on shows like Chopped, some contestants get a few sympathy points. The personal stories are part of the show's appeal, whereas nobody cares about the personalities of the Super-Transformo-Cooking-Bots of Iron Chef America. But the non-cooking factors are more subtle on a show like NIC. Insofar as there is a bias toward the personality rather than the performance, it is introduced by gimmicks like having other Iron Chefs like Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto join the judging panel out of the blue.

I've watched all the NIC seasons and what I've observed is that the current Iron Chefs have certain prejudices. There are people they see as their kind of chefs, and people they don't see that way. You still gotta cook your way in, but God help you if you don't fit the club: you can't get away with a single mistake. Jenhangir Mehta two years ago missed because of a limp French fry -- or was it because he seemed to the Iron Chefs a little flaky in his approach, a little unreliable? (Did I mention that Jose Garces is my least favorite Iron Chef?) Still, his fries were sub-par.

I counted negative comments -- at least, those which made the edits. Chef Falkner got three negative comments, Chef Zakarian two. I was guessing Zakarian, and then I heard the judges talk en banc. It was pretty clear that Chef Zakarian was their kind of guy, cooking their kind of food. But he also cooked a better meal, dish by dish. In the end, the enlarged panel to vote is there, I think, to help with quality control. Not to make sure "our guy" wins, but to make sure "our kind of values" do. And that's fair. It's also wise, since you don't want someone to win who isn't up to the role.