I think that many of us, while browsing through 185 channels trying to find 30 minutes of mindless entertainment, once discovered the program “Iron Chef” or one of its many children and lingered there for a few moments.
The premise of “Iron Chef America” was enticing: a Master Chef, usually someone who is renowned for the cuisine at his or her restaurant, was pitted against one of the Food Network’s own “Iron Chefs.” Each chef had two helpers, along with all of the food and technology that Kitchen Stadium could provide, and were charged with creating (within the hour) six gourmet courses that featured a Secret Ingredient.
Competition was overseen by The Chairman, who acrobated himself onstage, swooshed his head and said hello. Then, using a good deal of aplomb, he revealed said Secret Ingredient and set the contestants scurrying with the words, “Allez cuisine!”
I must say I was pretty impressed with that “Iron Chef” program. How could I not be? There were teams of sous chefs who could dice a pound of onions in less time than it takes me to find my cutting board. There were chefs who could produce — and gorgeously plate — six dishes in roughly the same amount of time it takes me to microwave a package of chicken enchiladas.
But I grew a little weary of watching a competition that revolves around the meals that two super chefs can make from a reindeer. I want to see television start featuring a real challenge. I want to see an Iron Chef Mom.
We all have our Iron Chef Mom moments. You’re in the kitchen with one child who’s late for soccer practice, one who needs help with some “new math” homework and a 2-year-old who needs a diaper change when the tiny Chairman Voice in your head asks,
“What can you make with … a bag of frozen ravioli and a can of refried beans?”
So I want to see a competition that celebrates our everyday Home Kitchen challenges. Home Kitchen Stadium would have a counter full of mail, a table piled with laundry, and a dog. The Chairman would be the Original Iron Chef’s Mother-in-Law. Prizes are a month’s supply of lasagna and a spa weekend. A chef wins if her kids eat her food.
Alton Brown can still be the commentator. (We like him.) His commentary would sound something like this:
“Our Iron Chef Mom is a veteran mother of two whose crowning achievement was making veal parmesan for 20 while her house was being painted and her daughter was going through a breakup with her boyfriend. Our challenger is a worthy opponent whose cookbook, ‘365 Ways to Use Cream of Chicken Soup,’ is a bestseller and whose 3-year-old twins are at this moment smearing the walls of Home Kitchen Stadium with garlic paste.
“Tonight, we’re going to see if they can make dinner out of … a jar of anchovies and an old cucumber!”
“You’d better hurry!” says Chairman Mother- in-Law.
“And they’re off!
“The challenger runs to the supplies and grabs a stack of Dora the Explorer DVDs to buy herself three minutes of prep time.
“On the home side, Iron Chef Mom is making burritos out of our Secret Ingredients and a can of Vienna sausages while fielding a phone call from her daughter, whose car battery died in the middle of the left-turn lane out of the high school parking lot.
“Meanwhile, the challenger has combined those anchovies with her trademark cream of chicken soup and poured it over animal-shaped pasta. Her twins have been tormenting Home Kitchen Dog, so she’s … letting them take turns with the cucumber and the juicing machine. Brilliant.
“Iron Chef Mom has told her daughter that the jumper cables are under the baseball gloves in the trunk and is talking her through how to jump the car (that’s what makes her Iron, folks!), while plating the burritos for her son and three of his friends, who have just entered Home Kitchen Stadium looking for something to eat.
“Now for the test… Will They Eat It?
“Yes! The boys ate the burritos!
“Oh no…on the challenger’s side, the twins spit out their food! But wait … the dog is eating it, so our challenger still gets the lasagna! Here at Home Kitchen Stadium, everyone’s a winner, just like Mom says!
“So until next week, we leave you with final words from Chairman Mother-in-Law:”
“What’s in YOUR freezer?”
Robin Conte is a writer and mother of four who lives in Dunwoody. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.