Anybody who has ever had a conversation with me about food knows that I am a Chopped junkie. In case you are thinking I need a 12-step group to help me overcome my addiction, I do not. I thoroughly enjoy watching this show for a number of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with food itself. One of the reasons is that so many of the chefs who are on the show have such amazing stories to tell about their lives that I find inspiring and remind me of the power of the human spirit and the transformative power to manifest our destiny, often times building them out of rubble. There have been episodes I have watched that the stories have moved me to tears as I have listened to how people have come through numerous bouts with cancer, loss of limbs, homeless, and addictions and as Maya Angelou once wrote, “And still I rise.” This show has also reminded me of the importance of being humble. I have always found it interesting how the humility one brings to the ingredients and the creation of the food somehow seems to translate into how the dish tastes. Simultaneously, I find myself rooting for those who seem to be the most humble and to be focused on honoring the ingredients. For me, ingredients are like people. There are those you enjoy being around more than others, but each is a gift from the Universe and should be treated with dignity and respect.
As much as I enjoy watching Chopped, I also enjoy the challenge and liberation of doing Chopped at home. I actually asked some of my friends what ingredients they would give me to make them dinner. My friend Barbra was easy. She gave me chicken, olive oil, sherry, and lemon juice. I told her I would make her a grilled chicken salad with mixed greens and vinaigrette made with the other three ingredients. What she gave me was much easier than some of the viewer’s choice baskets on the show. One of them included durian, lime gelatin, imitation crabmeat and crunchy cheese curls. If one of my friends gave me these four ingredients to make them a dish, I would begin by taking a moment to breathe and give thanks for that which the Universe has sent me. The one that would challenge me the most would be the durian because I am not familiar with it. However, I did see a recipe once for durian sticky rice, which sounded intriguing, so I think I would make that. I could weave the lime gelatin in with some coconut milk in making the sticky rice and serve that with crunchy cheese curl crusted chunks of imitation crabmeat, kind of like the fried crabsticks that you get from an Asian restaurant. One of my former students, Christopher, gave me lamb, day old egg rolls, asparagus, and vodka. While that seems a bit overwhelming, I would take the fillings out of the egg rolls and mix them with the asparagus and some orzo to create a pasta side dish. I would serve that with grilled lamb chops with a bloody mary sauce. With each of these combinations, I had to listen to what I knew in my spirit, go to the “sacred texts” in my life for inspiration, and step out in faith.
As much as I enjoy the show and love creating amazing dishes out of whatever my friends bring me, I have no desire to be on the show. I am not a competitive person and am not sure I would thrive under the pressure. I love cooking for my friends and family, they are my judges. At this point in my journey, I do not have the confidence to prepare high quality food under those conditions and I do believe those who have been on the show that it is harder live then it is when you are just watching the show. I am also not sure what accommodations they would make for me in terms of accessibility. How would I move behind the other contestants? How would I be able to reach things that are on the upper shelves of the pantry and frig? At home, I can call out for help or use my reaching tool. So for now, I am just going to settle for making my chopped basket meals at home, honoring the ingredients I am given and preparing meals for those I love and who love me. My prize may not be $10,000 but money cannot buy love.