News travels quickly in the gastronomical world, and today’s scandal is much ado about ringer vegetables.
It’s been revealed that the Food Network substituted stunt double produce during an Iron Chef America competition featuring the alleged harvest of the White House garden. The throw-down – delivered by Michelle Obama – starred Food Network regulars Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, and Mario Batali, aired January 3, setting a viewer record for the foodie channel.
The challenge for the celebrity chefs was to use only perishables provided by the White House garden. As with the beginning of all Iron Chef shows, the participants learn the terms of the competition, accented with interesting camera shots and thundering background music meant to churn the tension to a frenzy.
While the beginning of the show was filmed last fall at the White House, the actual competition was held a week later in a studio in New York City. The lag time demonstrates the obvious need to procure new, fresher veggies, but it doesn’t explain why the Food Network neglected to mention that fact either prominently or in passing.
When I first heard the story, I imagined that the White House bounty may not have been worthy of an Iron Chef competition. After all, the summer of 2009 should go down in the annals of time as the Bummer Summer – cold, wet and gray – or at least that was the way it was in Michigan. As a guerrilla urban gardener myself (guerrilla because I place food plants in the most unlikely of places, and urban because 8 Mile is two miles away), last year’s pitiful harvest can be counted on one set of hands. Two cucumbers, one Asian eggplant, two regular eggplants, one zucchini, and not enough tomatoes to can. It’s a good thing I like lettuce, because conditions were perfect for a bumper crop.