[Special note for this historic occasion: 70% of the following entry was written by Midlife Crisis Crossover's very first guest contributor, my wife Anne. She knows I welcome her input anytime -- above and beyond her ongoing, invaluable photo contributions -- but she's never taken me up on my standing offer on a writing basis till now. Remember: the more you applaud and embrace this entry, the more leverage I'll have in wheedling her for more contributions in the future.]
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Blame our 2013 road trip for this entry. We discovered the Food Network’s Chopped while flipping channels late Tuesday night in our Boston hotel room. The concept of this cooking-competition series is cerebral and daffy at once: four chefs are given a basket filled with four different ingredients that must be transformed and worked together into a single course, even if they don’t go together, even if they don’t go with the course in question (e.g., meats in the dessert rounds), even if they’re the vilest substance on Earth (durian!), even if mishandling the ingredients might kill put one of the judges in the hospital. (We’ve never thought that last one was a good idea…) The winner selected by three judges earns $10,000.00. The rest are treated to an empty-handed walk down the Hallway of Disappointment, with reactions ranging from excited letdown to disgusted fury to indignant self-hatred to horrific realization that defeat has destroyed their livelihood. The show can be funny and inspiring and tear-jerking and tragic in the space of a single episode.
After vacation we marathoned every Chopped episode available On Demand, caught many of the Tuesday and Thursday reruns, and are now keeping up with new episodes each week. Even though we’re recent converts, we’ve been taking mental notes along the way of the errors and omissions that occur with the most frequency, from the stupefyingly obvious to the obscure-but-fatal. Just in time for the upcoming Chopped five-part “Tournament of Stars” miniseries (yay celebrity contestants!), the following compilation is our armchair-cook advice for future would-be Chopped competitors based on the dozens of episodes we’ve devoured to date. This list is far from complete, and we welcome any additions in the comments below, especially from those among you who can truly cook. Though neither of us is a fancy gourmet chef by any stretch, we hope this helps anyway.
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