Brian Malarkey Out at “The Taste”

June 28, 2013

By Karen

It’s official, at least according to Brian Malarkey will not be returning as a judge for Season 2 of Anthony Bourdain’s cooking competition, The Taste.

Quel dommage.

Malarkey’s fondly remembering the experience as one where his wise counsel resulted in the Season 1 winner — who already happened to be Charlie Sheen’s personal chef.

As if those almost-gratuitous “mentoring” scenes that included Bourdain drinking with and Ludo Lefebvre berating the cooks had anything to do with anything.

There’s no definitive word yet on the return of Ludo, but I wouldn’t miss him. I just hope this news on Malarkey is an indication of some major retooling, although it’s not evident from the audition process. This from the FAQs

“You must serve one plate of food to Producer’s food experts. You will not have access to any equipment to heat your food and the dish you choose to serve should be one that can go without refrigeration for several hours. When preparing your dish, please take every effort to preserve your food to avoid spoilage and to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. We suggest transporting your food in a portable cooler to prevent spoilage. You must bring your own utensils including the plate, knives, forks, spoons, etc. You will only be given a few minutes to plate your dish (once you get into the audition room) so bring whatever it is you need to do that!”

Filming of the series is planned for September.

In the meantime, I’ve been watching Master Chef, and I’ve come to absolutely loathe that bald POS whose name I don’t even want to know. He verbally eviscerates and threatens the cooks every chance he gets, when he’s not spitting out their food or hurling their plates into the garbage right in their faces.

He makes Gordan Ramsay come off as a nurturing, caring cream puff.

I’d like to see Bourdain and Nigella Lawson go head to head with teams they actively lead. Maybe with an impartial third guest judge on tap for a tie-breaker who’s not Ludo.

Is Paula Deen a Racist?

June 24, 2013

By Karen

Paula Deen’s upbringing finally caught up with her. In a deposition for a $1.2 million lawsuit filed against her and her brother Bubba for creating a hostile work environment at their restaurant, Paula answered yes, “of course,” she had used the N-word in the past, as if to say, “Well, hasn’t everybody?”

Paula’s career is built on being a proud product of the South, parts of which are still butt-hurt over the Civil War. Being compelled to stop owning what they lovingly called “N-words” still rankles. And with good reason.

TODAY’s Richmond Times-Dispatch published 3 articles with “Civil War” in the headline. In fact, one of them is a DAILY feature that re-reports the Confederacy’s glory days.

But all bigots aren’t Southerners. My Italian grandmother, who spent her life in Massachusetts (and later years in Florida), always called blacks the N-word. She also hated the French and Jews, although I seriously doubt she ever knew any of them in any meaningful way.

She must have picked up all that racist bullshit from her parents. Just like Paula Deen probably did.

Back in 1972 when I moved to Virginia, I worked at J.C. Penney’s. Forty years later, I still vividly recall a white-haired Paula Deen type who, upon seeing a cute young white girl come up the escalator with a black boy, turned and whispered to me, “I’d like to push her right down those stairs!”

Over the years, black men have asked me for dates a few times, but I always turned them down. It’s just safer. I don’t want anybody feeling tempted to push me down an escalator.

So now Food Network isn’t renewing Deen’s contract, and her advertisers are having second thoughts.

Where was all this outrage after we found out Paula was flat-out trying to kill people with recipes SHE, as a closet diabetic, knew could be lethal?

All these entities turning on Paula now should be ashamed of their belated shock. Anyone can take one look at Deen and her whole redneck family and see you probably don’t have to scratch deep to find some festering Southern ugliness.

But I don’t think Deen would ever choose to be a racist. She’s been conditioned by her culture.

Paula reminds us all that, in spite electing a black president TWICE, racism still thrives. Republicans out to sink Obama no matter what the consequences for the country, and Deen’s loyal fans who are screaming, “What’s the big deal? Bring Paula back!” are just further proof of it.

This country can’t be cleansed for at least a few more generations, and only then if our leaders and people who should know better stop spewing mindless poison.

A few weeks ago, a Southern friend told me how a drunk woman in a bar hit on my friend’s husband, assaulted my friend, and then got herself arrested.

My friend called the woman the N-word.

Later in the conversation, my friend was incredulous when I mentioned I’d worked on Obama’s campaign. Yet she couldn’t give me any good reason she preferred Romney (other than, I suspect, his color).

This was a side of her I’d never really seen before — in 30+ years. But it’s there.

We all have it, to some degree, I’m sad to say. I bet there isn’t a person alive who hasn’t at some point avoided someone “other-looking” because that stranger made them uncomfortable.

Right now, George Zimmerman is on trial in Florida for killing a black teenager named Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s defense team has been dredging up dirt from Trayvon’s life to make the case that Trayvon needed killing for something. That way, Zimmerman’s a hero, not a gun-toting weirdo trolling for trouble.

This is how racism thrives.

BONUS: Watch Paula’s attempts to muster a sincere apology to her fans.

I’m a Consignment Reject

June 17, 2013

By Karen

Weight Watchers® success has me trying to find new homes for a wardrobe in sizes 16-2X.

AmVets got the rattiest stuff for rags, but some cruise and business attire and last summer’s little-worn outfits deserved better. So I tried consignment.

It would have been easier to build my own boutique.

The elusive proprietors of Richmond’s sole plus-size shop were available only by appointment, only when the kids were in school. Clothes must be clean, in perfect condition, and seasonal — reasonable enough — but also pressed and on hangers.

I prepped my summer’s best while calling repeatedly, only to FINALLY reach someone and get, “This season’s all booked.” (WHEN??!! HOW??!!) “Try again in the fall.”

The next shop had the word “Finicky” in its name. They sell only to size 18, which disqualified most of my clothes. Big women, don’t clog their aisles.

They did accept 2 dresses, one still bearing its price tag. It sold and my cut was $12. They gave the other dress to charity. I got no tax-deduction receipt because I didn’t drive across town to reclaim and donate it myself. Some weeks later, I made the trek to collect the $12 or they’d have kept that, too.

For business people whose success depends solely on good will to keep the free inventory flowing in, I was stunned by what passes for service in this retail niche.

A new shop nearby opened that pays upfront for clothes which don’t have to be seasonal or on hangers.

That’s all GREAT, but there’s a catch…

You can’t really have worn them beyond trying them on in the store.

I brought in a basket of mint-condition items, including a pair of 4-month-old Charter Club jeans (size 14), and several dressy t-shirts, tank tops, and pullovers that are NEVER out of style.

All rejected.

A Liz Claiborne all-weather coat I wore maybe 4 times. No dice.

A simple black cocktail dress, admittedly 7 years old, worn maybe 3 times on cruises. I saw the identical dress in upscale Dillard’s department store just weeks ago.

Not good enough.

They took 3 items, and one still had its price tag. I earned $14.

Lessons learned about consignment:

  • It’s not about recycling gently-worn clothes. They want your brand-new clothes.
  • For a lot of prepping and hauling, you’ll make peanuts — if you’re lucky.
  • Your sense of taste and self-esteem will take a beating.

I felt like crap after my clothes’ third rejection. If I hadn’t lost weight, I’d be wearing that stuff TODAY. But it’s apparently not nice or stylish enough for bargain-hunters who go around wearing strangers’ castoffs.

Charities, on the other hand, never scoff at your donations. They’re grateful you give them the opportunity to make a buck off your clothes.

And you benefit from a possible tax deduction, not to mention the pleasure that comes from knowing your stuff can help the less fortunate.

So, Goodwill is my next stop.

Did you know that Goodwill (and undoubtedly others, but I learned this firsthand from Goodwill) want even your ratty clothes? If they can’t be sold in Goodwill stores, they’re sold by the pound in the aftermarket. Even threadbare towels and socks can raise money.

Postscript: Weirdly, while writing this last night, I was watching Style Network and discovered Resale Royalty. It’s about a St. Louis second-hand shop that carries nothing but high-end designers (Chanel, Versace, etc.).

I felt a lot better after seeing them reject or offer relative pittances to ladies who’d paid hundreds and thousands for the beautiful clothes and shoes they brought in.

A more apt name for consignment shop owners might be Fashion’s Bottom-Feeders.

OMG, it’s True. ‘The Taste’ Will Return

June 14, 2013

By Karen

I’ve been hoping it was just a rumor, but ABC really has renewed Anthony Bourdain’s wretched cooking competition for a second season. They’re even churning out fantasy hype like it’s “America’s greatest new cooking show” and the contestants will be “mentored by the biggest stars in the business.”

Hellooo?? What “business,” exactly? ABC, do you have any idea when Bourdain last worked in a kitchen? Or what talent(s) his current celebrity is built on?

(Hint: It ain’t cooking.)

The official casting call has gone out for the next batch of hopeful, hapless schmucks.

The dates aren’t set yet, but they’ll audition victims in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville — that last locale undoubtedly to snag a trailer-trash token for diversity, à la last season’s Lauren, who turned out to be surprisingly adept.

They’re still clinging to the faux-democratic approach of giving everyone from “college students to restaurateurs” a shot. It just virtually guarantees wildly varied results and unfair outcomes.

But I detect maybe two rays of hope for this train wreck:

1. Tony and Nigella Lawson alone appear in the promo (below), with no mention of Season 1 judges Ludo Lefebvre or Brian Malarkey. Have they dumped the dick and the dead weight?

2. Tony and Nigella say the show is “all about the food.” Does the food have a hope of showing up on PLATES this time?

I’ve lately been following Gordon Ramsay on Hell’s Kitchen and Master Chef (the latter of which I soon loathed as much as Top Chef for its stupid gimmicks and one cold, bald, prick of a judge who thinks he can see into men’s souls).

But the thing Ramsay’s machine excels at is selecting cooks with personalities, and then giving them the screen time to make viewers care.

Let’s hope Season 2 of The Taste brings the cooks off the back burner and lets the show be about THEM.

Not about judges hanging out for fun and profit, fulfilling their ABC contracts by throwing out offhand assessments of morsels so small they often couldn’t identify them, and disappointing a gamut of celebrity chef wannabes who made the mistake of thinking The Taste’s absurd format gave them a prayer of being discovered.

In case you missed Season 1, want to know who won it? Not one of the earnest, talented home cooks, or even a restaurant worker. No. The winner was Charlie Sheen’s personal chef.

So much for diversity.

Bourdain Fulfills His Congo Dream

June 10, 2013

By Karen

Parts Unknown’s first season wrapped on CNN last night with Anthony Bourdain sailing down the Congo River, a place he said he’s “dreamed of visiting before I ever thought I’d get the chance to travel the world.”

His inspiration came from reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which he quoted quite a bit in the voiceover.

Knowing that Tony wanted to see this destination so badly made me want it to be all he hoped for (and for him to come out alive), but let’s face it — the true heroes of this piece were his camera crew. The opening montage alone managed to capture an astounding array of beauty, desolation, poverty, and joy.

Bourdain obviously has a much better grasp than most Americans of the mess over there, which one of his local contacts observed the world doesn’t hear much about on the news because it can’t be summed up in three minutes.

CNN is definitely morphing Bourdain from foodie into anthropologist/journalist. Given the dire circumstances of much of the population, he rightfully chose to use meals as punctuation in this story, rather than the main plot.

As he traveled through the jungle, it was amazing how many English-speaking people Tony met who seemed familiar with CNN. How?

He visited a railroad station where workers show up every day without pay to maintain a non-functioning facility, and an abandoned Belgian research center in the middle of the jungle where workers have been trying to preserve books without electricity for 20 years. One can only describe the Congolese as a proud people with a boundless capacity for hope.

Indeed, Bourdain summed them up as, “People waiting, hoping, for things to get better.”

But what’s better? Westernization? Starbucks or McDonald’s on every corner? Streets clogged with fanny-packing tourists? Jungle Wi-Fi?

Would those be improvements?

What remains to be seen is if Bourdain shining his light on Congo will make any difference. I hope it does. But then, what can the world do to right centuries of wrongs?

He got to take the two-day bug-infested voyage of his dreams on the Congo river, where he actually managed to squeeze in what has become the obligatory scene of killing, draining, plucking, and butchering chickens they’d brought along so he could make coq au vin.

The next day they dined on SPAM® and eggs.

This was probably the only hour of my life I’ll spend trying to understand the Congo, and it certainly hasn’t made it onto my short list of places to visit. But I really respect Bourdain’s efforts to get this large chunk of the world on our radar.

So now that Tony’s done the Congo, what next? What’s left?

Here’s what the man himself has blogged about it.

UnFoodie Stuffs Portobello Mushrooms

June 5, 2013

By Karen

I’ve reached my goal with Weight Watchers®, but I’m still experimenting with low-points meals so I can maintain my new svelte look. Mushrooms have zero PointsPlus®.

So I bought a couple of big portabellas and improvised using what I had on hand, after checking out some recipes online. These turned out good enough to share, but I’ll change some things next time.

Marinade (optional step)

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoon of olive oil

First, I marinated the mushrooms for an hour before cooking, but you don’t have to. If you use balsamic vinegar, line your cooking pan with foil, or the bitchin’ mess of burned vinegar you’ll be scraping later will destroy your manicure.

You cook all the components separately, then assemble near the end. This prep is all easy and doesn’t take more than 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°, then put in the mushrooms to pre-cook, gills side down, for about 10 minutes, or until you start smelling them. While that’s going on, you make the filling. Here is one of the mushrooms ready for the oven…


Recipes said to chop up the stems for the filling and throw away the gills, but I left the gills in because it seemed wasteful and I don’t mind eating them.

Dice and sauté in cooking spray any veggies for your filling, whatever you’d like. I used:

  • The mushroom stems
  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Spinach
  • Pinch of garlic powder (because I didn’t have fresh garlic)


(I don’t know why my pics are still coming out blurry. They always look fine on the camera screen. Grrrr….)

I felt like I needed some herb to spice it up, but wasn’t sure what to use, so my filling was kind of bland.

Once the veggies are soft, remove from the heat and add bread crumbs and cheese. I used:

  • 1/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup 2% shredded sharp cheddar

Take the mushrooms out of the oven, turn them gills-side up, and fill.


Put back in the oven about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese melts.



That’s the other change I’d make. I’d use full-fat cheese for a richer result. My cheese didn’t melt very well, and the crumbs didn’t brown. So I’d finish the shrooms under the broiler instead of baking longer.

But overall, was a tasty dish, and each mushroom was only 3 PointsPlus. I’ll definitely make it again.

If anybody’s got suggestions for seasonings or other improvements, I’m all ears.

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