Welcome to Kitchen Stadium!

My  brother Colin is one of my favorite people on earth.

He is 18 – almost exactly 10 years younger than me – but in many ways, I think he’s the family member I’m the most like.  For example, we share a passionate commitment to laziness; we have been known to argue about who is going to get up to find the remote and change the channel for the duration of an entire TV episode (thus negating the whole purpose of the argument and allowing us to comfortably settle back into our sloth).  We both much prefer lying around the house in our pajamas until dinnertime to going outside and doing things; in fact, when Cat and I go over to my dad’s house to check on Colin when my dad’s out of town, we take bets on whether or not he’ll have put on pants for the day yet.  I think the latest so far was 6:30 p.m.

We both eat like teenagers, and would happily subsist on pizza, buffalo wings and pop for every single meal if we were allowed to.

We love gossip.  Colin is the best possible audience for stories about my crazy friends from college, and has been known to re-enact the  most amusing incidents.  And when he was but a wee small fry of 10 or 11, we used to jointly peruse the People Magazine “Worst-Dressed List” and mock celebrity fashion disasters.

We also have a similar disdain for Paris Hilton (Colin’s scorn is well illustrated here).

We love James Bond, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, The Ramones, and Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me,” which Colin told me years ago was his new favorite song (like he’d just discovered it), and then proceeded to be horribly dismayed when he realized that all five of his family members – including 100% of his parents – knew all the words.

We would both rather eat chili than vegetables.

He converted me to the world of video games when he got the first “Guitar Hero”, leading to the following conversation between me and my other brother, Christopher:

ME: Hey!

CHRIS: Hey!  What are you doing here?

ME: I came over to play video games with Colin.

CHRIS: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!  No, seriously.

ME: I’m totally serious.  He just got the second “Guitar Hero” and we’re going to play through the whole thing on 2-player.

CHRIS:  Oh my God, who are you and what have you done with my sister?

In addition to countless hours of “Guitar Hero,” we also went through a phase in which our favorite pastime was Star Wars Monopoly.  Let me tell you, two-person Monopoly is a commitment.  We played several games that either A) took up an entire weekend or B) only ended because Mom accidentally put the game away, thinking we were done.  But Colin and I could happily spend five straight hours haggling over trading The Forest of Endor for the Massassi Temple in Cloud City, and whether or not the Millennium Falcon was required as collateral.  Those were good times.

So, yes.  Colin is awesome.  I’m trying not to dwell too much on the fact that both he and my sister will be leaving in August for college, ensuring that only I and Christopher (AKA the two busiest siblings and thus the two who least often see each other) are the only ones left in Portland.  With Cat departs my roommate, cooking buddy, and watcher-of-late-night-PBS-documentaries.  With Colin departs the #1 bitchy gossip queen of my life.  Heartbreaking.  There is a lengthy list of things that will decrease 50% in Fun once I have to do them on my own.  (Star Wars Monopoly is pretty much off the table.)  But of all the things I share with Colin, my two favorites – and thus the two that will be hardest to enjoy without him, are as follows:

#1.  The Crazy Crap House. You WISH that I had time to go into detail on the Crazy Crap House, AKA home of the planet’s oldest kleptos and thus site of the best garage sales known to mankind.  But that’s a tale for another time, so today we’re going to focus on:

#2.  Iron Chef.

There are no words for how much Colin and I love the original Iron Chef.  If you have never seen it, your life is sad and empty, so please click here so you know what you’ve been missing. 

We’ll watch Iron Chef America when it’s on, because most of what Bobby Flay cooks looks like food I’d actually eat, and because we like when the Chairman says, “I say unto you in the words of my uncle . . .” and then screams something unintelligible.  But really, it’s the original that does it for us.  It can’t be beat.  It’s the best hour of television in history.  The reasons are many.

BY FAR the best part is The Chairman. 

We LOVE The Chairman.  We love his flowing hair, his head-to-toe sequins, and the Shakespearean delivery of his lines.   The Chairman is unquestionably the snazziest TV show host since the invention of television, as well as, for my money, one of the most awesome people who has ever lived.  I YEARN to meet him in person.  I have so many questions.

Our other favorite part, and the aspect which we discuss and imitate the most often, is the panel of guest judges.  On Iron Chef America, the judges are often either people you’ve heard of, or people who you could imagine probably know a lot about food.  I’m always happiest when Mo Rocca or Ted Allen are on the panel, and particularly when Ted Allen is on the panel with the grumpy gray-haired food writer guy, who never likes anything and is always complainey.  Ted makes fun of him a lot, which Colin and I always enjoy.  But on the original Iron Chef, the judges are not only NEVER food experts (chefs, food writers, anything like that), but they don’t even seem that famous.  And even though the judging panel ostensibly changes for each show, the structure is almost always the same.  Invariably, each 3-person Iron Chef judging panel is made up of people from the following five categories:

A) The Rotating Bimbo. The Rotating Bimbo is BY FAR our favorite category of judge.  BY.  FAR.  There is one on each panel, and they are all different people but they dress, talk and behave exactly the same.  Usually an actress, occasionally a model or pop singer, the Rotating Bimbo, in my opinion, is inevitably the judge who suffers most from the poor acting skills of the voice-over translators.  It’s possible that in real life the RBs are a fleet of bright, witty Japanese media darlings, as clever as they are lovely, with varied and interesting acting/modeling/singing careers.  But this is not the impression you get if you, like me, only know them from their work as a judge on Iron Chef.  Without fail, the Rotating Bimbo’s main job is to point out extremely obvious things and then giggle like a child.  Favorite, oft-repeated RB quotes beloved by myself and Colin include:

–“It tastes sweet!  But yet also, somehow, not!”

–“Is that a banana?  Are there bananas in this?  I think I taste banana!  Bananas?  Are there bananas?  Bananas?  Bananas?”

–“Look!  He is stirring something!”

–“Hee hee!”

And other such Oscar-Wilde-esque gems of wit.  We LOVE the Rotating Bimbo.  I like to imagine a day will come in which all the RB’s will rise up as one and slay the female voice-over actress for making them all sound so spectacularly empty-headed and ridiculous.

B) The Low-Level Government Official (MALE). Self-explanatory.

C) The Low-Level Government Official (FEMALE). Also self-explanatory.

D) The Fortune-Teller. Unlike the other categories, this one is the same person every time.  There is only one fortune-teller.  She’s on at least every other episode.  She is a frumpy, middle-aged woman with an unfortunate short haircut, and both she and the announcer make incredibly poor jokes and puns referencing fortune-telling every time she is a judge, along the lines of “I see a delicious meal in my future!” and crap like that.  Despite the puns, though, she seems incredibly self-important and clearly takes her fortune-telling career EXTREMELY seriously.  I would by lying if I said I did not secretly want to meet her and have her tell my fortune.

E) Sheldon. “Sheldon” is our catchall term for an incredibly nerdy guy.  (Ironically, we were calling people “Sheldon” to indicate general nerd-dom long before the advent of The Big Bang Theory, one of our new favorite shows, in which the chief nerd’s name is Sheldon and he is awesome.)  Sheldons range from physicists to bank managers, and often sartorially overlap with Low-Level Government Official (MALE).  The one unifying trait of all Sheldons on the Iron Chef panel is the red bow tie.  It never fails.

Aside from the GLORIOUS AWESOMENESS that is The Chairman and his fantabulous sequined vests, and the comedy genius of the judging panel, the most noteworthy thing about the original Iron Chef is this: in all the years I have been watching this show – and those years are many – I have never, ever seen a single dish I would want to eat.  They’re all extremely interesting to look at, but they look uniformly disgusting.  There seem to be fish heads in everything, even dessert.  Shudder.  At least with Iron Chef America the food looks edible.  (Yes, I know that’s a xenophobic and possibly borderline-racist thing to say, but I stand by it.  The food looks insane.  I refuse to apologize for my unwillingness to eat Iron Chef food.)

Speaking of edible, Colin had his tonsils out on Monday, along with a deviated-septum surgery, so basically his entire head has been in some kind of pain.  My sister and I have gone over to hang out with him a few times, since we didn’t want him alone in the evenings when my dad goes out.  He is simultaneously hilarious and pathetic, the poor child – sprawled in a chair, with unwashed hair wearing a bathrobe, his voice a sad, Eeyore-like, stuffed-nose-sounding mumble.  We feel really, really bad for him.  The one upside, however, is that when he’s in this much pain, he’s too weak to fight us off when we hug him.  Usually I go in for the hug and get punched in the stomach.  But it’s harder for him to fend me off since this is pretty much what he looks like now:

The Iron Chef producers would not have made the Iron Chef America Chairman the nephew of the original Iron Chef Chairman if they didn’t think that family was important.  And so, I say unto you in the words of my uncle The Chairman . . . it’s going to be way less fun watching Iron Chef next year when Colin is in college.

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2 thoughts on “Welcome to Kitchen Stadium!

  1. Ohmygod, I LOVE the Rotating Bimbo! It’s my favorite part about Iron Chef. I also love the fact that the only person they won’t overdub is the Chairman, who–at least in every episode I’ve seen–gets subtitles. It’s like his voice is magical and can’t be drowned out.

    Hands-down the weirdest theme ingredient I ever saw them use was fat. It was a particular kind of fat–duck fat, or pig fat–but it was definitely just the skin and the fat. And I’m pretty sure one of the chefs made a dessert with it. Gross.

  2. I’ve seen that one too! I’m pretty sure it was “Battle Duck Fat.” Shudder.

    My other favorite thing is when they make “American” or “Italian” or “French” versions of things, and they’re like this hilarious Japanese-Italian fusion, like that’s what they think Italian food really is . . . which I remember from living in Japan. Where it’s just a given that your pizza comes with corn all over it. It’s so ubiquitous that they don’t even list it. A “pepperoni” pizza means “pepperoni and corn,” which apparently you’re just supposed to know. I see a lot of that on “Iron Chef,” like when the “Iron Chef Italian” makes something that he thinks is Italian and it never ever is.

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