It all started with Sandra Lee, America’s semi-homemade TV food vixen. Channel surfing on a rainy vacation afternoon, Little Henry and Stinky found Sandra on the Food Network and the rest is, well, an ugly story of dependence, obsession, and addiction.
Who can resist the way her pink top matches not only the drapes but the paper napkins and the hors d’oeuvres, too? Who can resist watching her scoop the innards out of an A & P cheese cake, load it into a pastry sleeve, and “pop it” onto cute lil’ crackers? The scene recalls Shelley Duvall’s pigs in a blanket from Robert Altman’s dark masterpiece 3 Women. She’s a train wreck of Americana.
Then came Iron Chef, the high-kitch, haute cuisine smashdown that years ago Mr. Henry watched in translation on some obscure cable channel. Mr. Henry remains in awe of the remarkable inventions these masters cobble together in one hour.
Now there is Top Chef.
Night and day Padma Lakshmi’s toffee-tongued locutions ring round the Henry living room. Clipped, staccato, 22-calibur pronouncements explode up through Tom Colicchio’s shiny pate. Yes, Top Chef on Bravo TV never ceases. Should you miss an episode, just wait. The replay is coming up soon.
The secret attraction of Top Chef, Mr. Henry confesses, is the weekly drubbing the judges hand out. It is the sure promise of real humiliation that grips the audience, the sadomasochistic pleasure of seeing young, eager acolytes sent to their doom. Die, young chefs! We who are about to cook salute you!
Looking at Padma’s longshanks frame, one wonders just how much rich food she actually swallows. Mr. Henry, in fact, spends a good part of each episode examining Padma’s hypnotic physique and the clothing with which she drapes it. How can she be so thin and still have curves? Has she been surgically redesigned into a foodie fem-bot?
Will she ever reveal the secret story behind the enormous scar that runs the entire length of her upper right arm? Mr. Henry harbors a secret affection for the tall, scarred Padma’s of this world.
And Padma, too, harbors secret affections. When forced to eliminate tall, handsome guys like Sam last season or C.J. this season, her dark eyes swell with tears. Hard as he may try, Mr. Henry cannot look away.