There are things on television that just take your breath away with their sweet, sweet, train-wreck awfulness. One of these is the whole Iron Chef galaxy on the Food Network.
Now, first of all we must leave aside considering the entire notion of a channel devoted solely to the preparation and consumption of food, as that is an entire blog of its own. There are very few human activities these days that do not have their own television channel, and at least with food there is always the chance that they could be making something you like and you could learn how to make it. Or you could go to whoever makes it and get them to feed it to you.
I can respect that.
But the idea of making cooking into a head-to-head contest - now that's just bizarre on the face of it. And when you take this cooking contest and saturate it with a level of self-absorbed camp so deep that you can't tell if they are doing it intentionally or whether that distinction even matters, a level that William Shatner hasn't even conceived of, let alone achieved - then you get The Iron Chef.
This started out as a Japanese show, with a tricked out set known officially as "Kitchen Stadium" and an emcee who looked like an Asian vampire (complete with cape) and was prone to taking overly dramatic bites out of defenseless fruit - pears, I believe. In its full, dubbed-over glory, this was a show that could make hardened contract killers weep with helpless laughter.
And then they came out with an American version whose sole function is to demonstrate that having the participants speak in their native tongues does not make a bit of difference. Camp is as camp does.
Naturally, we love this show in our house.
They've been on a holiday theme of late, and who hasn't? Last night's episode was entitled "Battle Cranberry," which sent visions through my head of large armored cranberries rolling through prostrate, burning towns in their quest to defeat the Stuffing Of Doom. From there it was all downhill, sobriety-wise. Battle Cranberry was an exercise in supreme silliness - from the celebrity chefs struggling to put cranberries into everything (including ravioli), to the judges (all of whom needed to be swatted on the back of their heads while being shouted at: "Don't confirm my stereotypes!") to the final judgment delivered in the apocalyptic tones of a war-crimes tribunal - and we loved every minute of it.
No, I don't remember who won. We all did, I suppose.