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I’m definitely not in love with Valentine’s Day.  I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I don’t have a special someone to bring me breakfast in bed, I don’t get a card, I’m not going out anywhere for any kind of romantic meal nor am I bringing any roses to it.  Just the way it goes. 

There are a couple of ways to take that: either I’m a damaged aberration, or this is more common than we’re led to believe.   I have my own theory.

In any case, it’s interesting to me that we celebrate Valentine’s Day and yet nobody really knows why we have such a holiday.  (Not a real holiday, mind you: everyone still has work.)  Catholics have different saints that could be the eponymous “Valentine,” and, ironically, all were horribly murdered.   The Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus killed at least two of them by cutting off their heads.

Red roses indeed.

How Hallmark and Hollywood turned this disgusting bloodbath into anything so tepid and formulaic is another story.

Time for boozy nog and fireplace rituals.It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the YearTM, according to many experts in the field, including greeting card companies and ye olde crooners like Andy Williams.  It’s time to gather the family around the fireplace and drink all sorts of nog – egg-nog, cinnamon-toast-nog, pumpkin-spice-nog, all generously laced with rum and brandy – so the adults get X-mas happy while the kids carefully rehearse how many toys they want, including every major A-list game title, nextgen console upgrade, and which $4,000+ new gaming rig they can’t live without.

It is, therefore, also a time for great indebtedness for parents, which makes it the perfect time for re-gifting!  That is, taking all the unwanted crap people have gifted to you, and gifting them (ideally) to someone else, so you don’t have to squander your hard-earned, inflation ravaged moola. It just makes solid financial sense.

This can be a sensitive matter, giving someone your gift.  You run the risk of embarrassment or retaliation unless you don’t particularly care.  If this describes you, read on, chumply, read on.

And swing that dead cat hard.Not sure when chefs became more than budding alcoholics sitting around in suffocating kitchens spitting in the horrible food I sent back for being inedible, but these days you can’t throw a dead cat without it ending up in a 30 minute stew on someone’s cooking show. 

Let’s make more!  And I’ll watch them because I’m bored.  In fact, I’ve been watching Ramsey’s latest shameless money grab “Next Level Chef,” where he tortures more aspiring alcoholics in a three level kitchen thing designed to be on T.V.: the top level is the best one, with all the fancy cooking crap and everything you can dream of, and the bottom is like your great-grandma’s basement dungeon where hope and ancient cooking pots go to die.  The middle one is just ok. 

So then the bozos are randomly assigned to one of the kitchens and have to make due with whatever stuff is there.  Eventually a big bunch of food comes down on an elevator in the middle of the kitchens, the top guys get first pick, and they take everything good so by the time the crappy basement dwellers get it they’re cooking pickled sea urchin sticks with maple syrup and hoping the judges have a brain aneurysm and think this garbage is delicious.  Then the judges endlessly criticize their crap and kick people out until the poor bastard still left wins, and then he or she or they get to go on the “hidden cooking show circuit” and end up in a cable cooking competition deathmarch for the next 10 years.

One of the judges on Gordon’s show is Richard Blais, who I remember from Top Chef.  The guy’s funny and it’s a paycheck, really don’t have any beef with him.  Gordon is predictably intense and furthering his agenda of never being home because he’s either filming a FOX reality show or yelling at his underlings in one of his bazillion restaurants.  Anyway, I’m sure his wife doesn’t mind so long as her debit card works. 

The other judge is a renowned restauranteur from someplace and seems ok.   Genuinely seems to care about the contestants she picked out from the pack.   Anyway, the show’s format isn’t her fault.  It’s a Gordon money-grab and he’s making the bulk of the cash from this shameless exploitation of amateur chefs looking for exposure and enough money to open a restaurant that’ll fail in a year after the buzz wears off and “Next Level Chef” is endlessly repeating on late night Dabl TV, and idiots like me are googling “what happened to XXX” where XXX is whoever won the show we’re now watching at 2AM on a Wednesday.

I watched the whole season and can’t remember who won and I’m too lazy to google it now.  That’s how big an impression it made on me, I guess.  Of course, like millions of others I wasn’t paying that close of attention.

It’s not that I’m a Ramsey hater, I’m not.  I’ve watched like all his shows and for the most part I get his frustration dealing with boneheads who can’t figure out that serving raw chicken can kill someone.  Or that would-be restauranteurs should pay attention to what their kitchens are doing and clean the walk-in every now and then because it’s disgusting when you don’t.  For the most part he’s yelling common-sense into blockheads who either forgot or just wanted to own a restaurant for tax-deductible booze, and I get that.

But would it really be so bad to have a Ramsey show out there which transforms idiots without the shock-and-awe?  Probably wouldn’t air on FOX but I can dream.  Producers: here’s your next challenge.


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