Well, the sad, melancholy news is that I am not the Best Home Cook in the Waikato.
The consolatory news is that, despite my lemon dipping sauce going totally off its rocker, forgetting to put the thyme in said sauce and running out of time to use the arty skewers I bought for $6.49… I am the Runner-Up.
I have a large, framed certificate to prove it. I’m not sure what to do with it. Either I’ll chuck it in the bin or keep it enshrined on the wall of the throom with mood lighting and laser security. I also have a $200 gift card for Farro, which is much less problematic.
The panna cotta chap won, as could be expected - he made a very fancy fish dish with lemon fondant potatoes (why are they called that? I’m gonna try them, anyway, though not with preserved lemon). Many people liked Tiny Miles. I educated the viewing public on the harvesting methods of saffron, which is more interesting than I probably made it sound. I bought a disappointing milkshake and some incredibly nommy spiced nuts. Helpdesk Man bought fudge, cider, a mango mocktail and two pizzas. (Helpdesk Man 1, Diet 0.) An old lady in the audience heckled one of the other contestants, but left (thankfully) before I went up. Another contestant borrowed my chef’s knife. A man demonstrating cheese-making borrowed my frying pan. The Indian guy gave me his spare plate of curry and couscous. The MC read out bits of my application email, which was embarrassing. Half a bulb of fennel fell on the floor while I was setting up, but I didn’t need it. A lady in the front row was nervily arguing with a contestant over whether her chicken would be undercooked. The pig heard my name being called out and said excitedly “Ooh, Mummy, what are you going to make?”, proving she has been absent in spirit for the last seven days. Miles emitted a rank, sulfurous stench just as the MC was saying “Some wonderful smells are coming from the stove right now”. One guy simply called his dish “Lamb Fusion”, which sounded a heck of a lot artier than my “Well, um, I’m making chicken tender thingies with a lemon dipping sauce and bits of stuff, oh, and cream cheese balls”. I should have flung glitter into the air and said “I present to you… ZELDA!”, or summat. Also, I had to wear a headset. And I accidentally made a joke about Martha Stewart being a felon, but I don’t think anyone noticed,
But on to weightier matters. You know Patch Adams? Well, the film was based on the life of a real chap, Hunter “Patch” Adams, who was indeed a doctor and believed in the power of ‘aving a larf, but was not Robin Williams (three points to him, really). I read his book once. In it he described the model hospital (or “healing centre”, or something vaguely hippieish, I forget) he would have built if he had ever had enough money, but he did not (and his wife left him - it’s not as cheery a read as you might expect).
It sounds like a pretty neat theoretical facility - he planned the whole grounds in the shape of a clown, so as to terrify pilots, and he had pottery sheds and vegetable gardens and counselors and basketweaving stations and things, so if someone was suffering from the blight he could just toddle down the well-raked gravel path and throw a pot, and feel much better. Holistic, innit. But one rather questionable innovation was the Death Room.
Patch Adams wanted death to be a joyful experience, you see, and he thought that the dying - in much the same way that pregnant women choose candles and essential oil and Enya CDs for giving birth - could choose the ambience surrounding their death. So he planned out this room with a dome-shaped ceiling, on which you could project images of stars or childhood photos or whatever you wanted; and the idea was you could choose a fragrance and have your family around and eat cookies and generally go out in style.
It’s not hard to see the flaws in this plan.
“Are you almost done in there? Mrs Jenkins in Ward 17’s going a bit blue.”
“Wait a minute, the Death Star’s almost reached the Rebel base!”
“Weren’t you in here last week? This isn’t IMAX, you know.”
“I was dying.”
“You were watching Avatar.”
“That’s a very significant film for me!”
“Well, do you think you could pop off before the end of the credits? I have to hastily Photoshop a picture of Mrs Jenkins riding on a unicorn with Leonard Nimoy.”
“She’ll surprise ya. Now look, that’s my pager; are you coming or going? She’s got a three-page deathplan, she’ll be furious if she misses out.”
Meanwhile Mrs Jenkins, being wheeled down the corridor by an orderly:
“Where are we going?”
“I just thought we’d take a little stroll. Get some fresh air.”
“This isn’t the way to the gardens - wait a second. You’re taking me to the Death Room, aren’t you?!”
“What? Of course not. Maybe just a little trial run. Your Aunty Edna’s flown in, and your high school drama teacher.”
“They flew in for a trial run?”
“Of course they did, sweetie. Everybody cares about you.”
“I’m not dying! I feel fine!”
“And you look lovely. How about we pop your old wedding dress on over your shoulders, now?”
“The doctor said I was going to be out of here by Tuesday!”
“Dr Adams? Oh, he’s a lovely man, isn’t he. Likes his little jokes. Now, look at that, Chef’s made your favourite dessert. Aren’t you in luck!”
“Is that my grandmother’s perfume I smell?”
“Probably just the angels, sweetie. Now oop, here we go, onto the couch. You just lie there and look at Mr Spock on the horsie. We’ll be back in the morning to pick up the - I mean, you have fun. Make the most of this.”
I mean, dude. I’d totally do it, though. I’d have a big flashing countdown, just to see what would happen. Can you psychosomatically induce death by expectation? Probably.