August 09, 2006
THE FOOD JUDGE FROM HELL
So I knew last Friday was going to be a disaster from the minute I woke up.
It started when my foodie ("Shortcuts" Queen) daughter Jodi asked me to fill in for one of the judges in the opening round of the local chefs cooking competition in The Hamptons Wine and Food Festival. The judging was taking place at 8 a.m. in Bridgehampton.
When my alarm rang to wake me up at 6 a.m., I had just a few hours sleep and was not fit to judge anything, no less the incredible culinary skills of eight of the East End's greatest, young chefs.
I had waited up until 2:30 a.m. for my teenage son J.T. to come home. Teenagers, when they reach the age of 16, turn into vampires roaming the land by night and sleeping by day.
Their cell phones, with which they seem to be able to talk to any other teenager anywhere on earth while they are in your presence, become useless and don't take calls when you try to reach them in the middle of the night to get a clue as to when they are going to come home.
Those of you who have or have had a 17-year-old know just what I mean. I have waited up for all five of my kids while they went through their fun-filled teen years. I'm exhausted.
Here's how the "waiting up" thing works. Both parents do not stay up.
In every household with a teenager, one parent is a worrier and the other is a sleeper. The sleeper doesn't know what the worrier is worrying about:
"The kid will get home when he or she gets home," says the sleeper, then he or she turns over and is sound asleep and snoring in less than 30 seconds. The worrier parent can't understand how the sleeper parent can sleep. A million scenarios are played out in the worrier's head, none of them good.
In my home, I'm the worrier; My wife, The Beautiful Judy Licht, is the sleeper.
She sleeps. I worry.
She sleeps. I pace.
She sleeps. I drink.
She sleeps. I mumble.
I text message my son all night. He answers me on occasion in that teenage cell phone shorthand that I can't understand:
"Wl B HM LT R."
What the hell does that mean? I say as I read and re-read the message over and over again.
Finally, when my son comes home, I'm so happy to see him that I can't fall asleep. On Friday, after three hours of tossing and turning, the alarm went off. I jumped out of bed more dead than alive. I rushed into the bathroom and grabbed my toothbrush. I reached for a tube and started to vigorously brush my teeth.
I was brushing my teeth with Vitamin A and D ointment.
Now the reason I had the Vitamin A and D ointment on my bathroom counter was because when it comes to dealing with the sun and using sunscreen I'm a moron. All summer long I've been frying my face. I keep forgetting to put on sun lotion and now my skin has the color and texture of a wallet, while my chapped, cracked lips look like a piece of raw liver. Drinking a glass of milk stings.
So, I showed up to be a judge and what were these talented, young, local chefs preparing? Tomatoes.
The competition to find the best chef in the Hamptons called for them all to prepare a dish whose main ingredient were tomatoes. Tomatoes are acidy.
Do you have any idea how it feels to sample eight dishes made with tomatoes when your lips feel like you're eating a burning piece of charcoal? And when I finally got the food past my burning lips, everything tasted like Vitamin A and D ointment.
Fortunately, the other judges were great and had not paralyzed their taste buds, so I followed them around and picked what the majority of the judges picked.
One judge tasted a dish, turned to me and asked, "Do you detect fennel as an ingredient?"
No, I thought to myself, "I detect the subtle taste of Vitamin A and D ointment."
With my lips burning I can honestly say every dish brought tears to my eyes.
With sponsors like The New York Times and American Express and Toshiba, you just know The Hamptons Wine and Food Festival is going to be great. Tickets are going fast.
It's this Saturday and Sunday, August 12th and 13th at Ross School in East Hampton. It's the greatest tasting event of the summer!
Call (631) 613-3110 or go to www.hamptonswineandfood.com. Sign up now so you can get in on all the freeloading parties and luncheons. I will be there both days, but if you see me, don't look at my lips — they will ruin your appetite.
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