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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Dinner: Inconceivable

I watch a disturbing amount of the Food Network. It’s just possible that I’ve mentioned this in the past.

I told you; it’s disturbing. If Food Network were bad cholesterol, I’d be seven hundred pounds of jiggling lard by now. Also, I’d be dead. Jiggly, lard-laden and buried in a piano case. Two out of three ain’t bad, I suppose.

“Jiggly, lard-laden and buried in a piano case. Two out of three ain’t bad, I suppose.”

For all of my mentions of culinary entertainment, though, it seems I’ve neglected to attend to one of my most-watched programs, ‘Dinner: Impossible‘. Tonight, I’ll be taking care of that oversight.

(I think that just leaves ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Spiky-Headed Surfer Dork‘, and I’ll have written about every damned show in the lineup.

Maybe they’ll give me something for that. Like an Alton Brown kosher salt cellar, or a Food Network Challenge apron. Maybe a set of Rachael Ray dentures to mount over my mantel like a shark jaw. Something classy like that.)

Anyway, back to Dinner: Impossible.

If you’re not familiar with the show, it goes something like this:

In the first ten minutes, they introduce the chef — Brit Robert Irvine in the early episodes and more recently, self-proclaimed porkophile Michael Symon — to the challenge at hand. Said challenge always involves three components — time pressure, number of people to be fed, and some special condition(s) germane to whatever ridiculous situation they’re being dropped into.

So, for instance, the chef du jour might be asked to create a meal in a matter of hours for 450 cowboys, with the stipulation that he can’t repeat any meal they’ve had on the current cattle drive. Or the trick could be to concoct eight dishes for 150 people in an afternoon — with the catch that they’re all from Crayola, so the dishes have to match colors found in their ubiquitous ‘Box O’ 64′. Or he might have to whip up a modest feast for a handful of RenFaire fruitcakes — but he only has seven hours, and can solely use ingredients, methods and equipment available in the late Middle Ages. What, no sushi or Big Macs? Off with his head!

For all the scheming and machinations on the part of the show’s producers, though, most ‘impossible’ dinners seem pretty well under control from start to finish. Oh, sure, there’s a bit of sweating and some yelling and the occasional kitchen setback — but remember, I watch a lot of Gordon Ramsey, too. He bitches and grouses more in the credits of one of his shows than these chefs do in a whole month of episodes. Clearly, they’re not being taken out of their comfort zones.

I think we can fix that. I dig the show now, but it’s frankly not accurately titled. None of these dinners are impossible. Most of them aren’t even improbable; it’s simply a matter of how many lines people will have to stand in, or whether their mutton leg or ‘burnt umber souffle’ will still be warm when they sit down to eat.


I say we find out the point at which these dinners become really impossible. Test the limits until it’s simply not physically possible to put food on the table, and then I’ll agree with the name. I’ll know they’ve gotten the message when I see a show with one of these scenarios:

Hello, Robert. Your challenge today takes you to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. You’ll be preparing a meal for the capacity crowd of 92,000 people on hand, give or take a few hundred. And given that the stadium is the home of UCLA football, none of your ingredients may contain the letters U, S, or C. You have three hours — good luck.

Welcome back, Michael. Today, you’ll be scaling Mount Everest with a team of sherpas and forty hungry tourists. At each base camp along the route, you’ll be creating a unique tasting menu for the survivors to that point. Your preparation time depends on how quickly you can hike and your resistance to hypothermia, of course — but remember, only one dish per meal can contain the remains of anyone who succumbs to the elements. Bon voyage!

Greetings, Robert. This week, we’ll be transporting you to the ‘big cat’ enclosure in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. You’ll have one hour to prepare a menu of your own design, after which we’ll release twelve Bengal tigers into the kitchen. If your food is delectable enough to distract the tigers long enough to allow you to escape, you’ve passed the challenge. By the way, you can’t use any ingredient that has ever cast a shadow. And you’re not allowed to heat anything over sixty degrees Fahrenheit. Also? We starved the tigers for a month. Bon appetit!

Yeah, Michael, look. We’re dropping you off in Idaho. Here’s a stalk of celery, three peanuts and a packet of Arby’s Horsey Sauce. You’ve got ten minutes to feed the whole frigging state. How you like them taters, smart guy?

Okay, so maybe they won’t go quite that far. Still, it’d make for quite an episode or two. And the show would finally live up to its name. And perform a humanitarian service, to boot. Won’t somebody think of the tigers?

Permalink  |  2 Comments

2 Responses to “Dinner: Inconceivable”

  1. kerry says:

    couldn’t we just feed rachel ray to the tigers and be done with it?

  2. Charlie says:

    Oh Kerry, if it were only that easy. But with that huge gaping maw of hers, I’m afraid she’d eat the tigers. That’s no good.

    Now, Paula Dean, on the other hand…

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