I wouldn’t be able to say I thought much of the “What-does-your-cupcake-say-about-you?” challenge that opened last night’s Food Network Star. Generally, if a cupcake is saying anything more than, “Hey Gary… I bet you can’t stuff this whole me in your mouth at one time!” I’ll generally pass on it altogether.
Thank God for Guest Judge Ina Garten.
I admire Ina. On The Barefoot Contessa, she’s always so tranquil… so calmly in command, no matter what may come her way. It could be a last-minute birthday party for seventeen, an impromptu brunch along The Seine, or a flash flood that ravages her entire dill weed garden.
It doesn’t matter.
Ina would simply tuck her head to the side, give a warm, comforting giggle, and suddenly everything would be wonderful again.
Ina’s astonishing equanimity is such a God-given talent that I’d love her to branch out from cooking and show people how to remain calm in other situations where it really matters. Say, for example, prison.
I’m sure there’d be a huge interest in a show where instead of decorating pear tarts and planning baby showers, Ina enters a maximum security detention facility and demonstrates how she can make the best of it while collecting all kinds of new friends. “Today, I’ll be teaching a little stool pigeon what’s good for her using this attractive oyster fork! It’s a great way to let them know you’re thinking about them, plus it’s so much fun. Be sure your pigeon is sound asleep before you shank her, or her blood will splatter everywhere… and that’s a mess no one will want to clean.”
Of all the personalities on Food Network, Ina is the one I’d most like to be trapped with in an elevator. Not only would she remain totally serene, she almost certainly would have a large picnic basket with her, filled with all kinds of rustic breads and iconic cheeses. We could pick out a little cozy spot in the corner and have a nice lunch and learn more about one another. She could teach me how to make the perfect coffee cake. I could teach her how to get her cat to give high-fives. She could recount her experience writing nuclear energy budgets during President Ford’s administration. I could tell her how one time I met The Harlem Globetrotters, including the bald one!
Yes, my patience was tested during the cupcake challenge, but not Ina’s… even when Sandwich King Jeff presented her with his creation… an Italian sub cupcake, piled high with five different cured cold cuts, including salami, prosciutto and pancetta.
Ina’s assessment of Jeff’s meat monstrosity was as sunny and it was stinging: “Am I right that you prefer to cook rather than bake? Yeah… it shows here. Thank you.” And with that, she dismissed our Sandwich King the way she might dismiss a ladybug from her lapel. And yet, she was so sweet and endearing throughout, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Jeff had leaped into Ina’s lap and started telling her what he wanted for Christmas.
As for me, I’d like to mock Jeff more for his stunningly bad cupcake mash-up, but I can’t. I was the guy who once invented something called “The Pizza-Ttini.” I was so very proud of it. I was certain it would be the perfect blending of my two favorite flavor sensations: pepperoni pizza and martinis. Instead, it tasted like feet.
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