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Thursday night, as I mentioned at New Year, is teley night in this household and I sit for two hours glued to MasterChef Italia with the programme's twitter hashtag column open on my computer so that I can join in the commenting as it progresses. Sometimes the twitter stream goes so fast that you can't read the comments or even "catch" one to read and I follow the programme's facebook updates at the same time but all in all I thoroughly enjoy the multimedia experience.
I also enjoy, as many of you will remember, the comments of Messrs Joe Bastianich, Bruno Barbieri and Italy's "sexy chef" Carlo Cracco and they have certainly delivered a few surprises during this series! The series has produced some very interesting characters among the contestants, too and the one I like best is a 68-year-old gentleman from Cremona, Alberto. Alberto, it was clear from the first episode, likes the ladies and the ladies, including this one, like him, to the extent that there is quite a battle for his heart taking place on twitter! Another character is a Moroccan lady called Rachida who has not yet managed to get through an episode without crying and who has whole teams of supporters and detractors on social media. I'm not quite sure which camp I belong in yet and change my mind at least twice during each programme but on the whole I think I'm pro-Rachida.
Last night's episode was the best yet, in my opinion and was particularly interesting for me because it again showed how suspicious Italians are of any food that is not their own. American chef Graham Elliott - whose name was strangely pronounced throughout the programme as "Gram" - showed us the menu he had cooked in his Chicago restaurant for President Obama's birthday in 2010 and then the contestant who had won the previous test had to choose which of these she and her rivals would cook. By this time the twitter stream was full of comments like, "But do they know what they're eating, these Americans?" and when "Gram" showed us his lobster corn dogs, explaining that they're a bit like hot dogs, only fried, it went wild as viewers all over Italy expressed their horror. [Believe me, the discussion was much more animated than on any election night!] I thought the funniest was when someone tweeted a photo of a worried-looking Obama, one hand pressed to his temple, with the comment that the President must have been remembering what he ate at "Gram's" place. Fortunately, perhaps, the contestants ended up cooking a corn bisque.
Later, the contestants were taken to the Caserma Santa Barbara, home of the Milan Polo Club, for the outdoor, team challenge, in which each team had to cook a set menu for the spectators, who afterwards voted for the better team. Judge Joe Bastianich got the job of interviewing and looking after the spectators and seemed fascinated by the ladies' hats [as well he might have been, for I was fascinated by his!] "Of course, the polo's best at Engadina", one elegant lady told him, provoking a torrent of sarcastic twitter comments. One man, like me, just wanted to know where the hell it was and now a Google search has revealed to me that it's in St Moritz. [A girl needs to know these things.]
Alas, the team led by my beloved Alberto lost this week, so the poor man had to do the "pressure test", which involved cooking a perfect aubergine parmigiana in 15 minutes. When he presented his dish for judgement, he was asked why a man of his age wanted to win MasterChef when he'd already lived his life. Why would he want a life-changing experience now? I don't like the implication, often made in my own country too, that in trying to live life to the full, the old are somehow robbing the young of opportunities, so I was on the edge of my seat as Alberto replied,
"We always have something inside, although we grow old. To continue to express ourselves or to dream. Because dreams are in colour and I want everything to still be in colour, until I die."
Not a dry eye in the house or on the twitter stream and Alberto is through to the next round!
Congratulations, Sky Uno and MasterChef Italia, on a great episode.