Monday, February 11, 2008

Molto Mario, keepin' it real.

I didn't always like Mario Batali, but my distaste stemmed from something stupid and I can admit that. When I watched his fantastic show on the Food Network, "Molto Mario," I was repulsed by the amount of times he coughed on the food. He coughed, only occasionally covering his mouth, and then dug right on into the dough with mucus hands. Truthfully, that was no reason to hate the man, but it was reason enough for me to change the channel.

New episodes of Molto Mario haven't been filmed since 2004, and I've come to regret my silliness. I used to learn things watching Mario Batali, and I was acutely aware that he was passionate about a meal and its history. I actually don't watch the Food Network anymore. Their cancellation of MM was their final death rattle, the signal that all good culinary programming would be cut to make way for talentless monsters like Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee, whose only credentials as far as I can tell are that my dad thinks they're hot.

But back to Batali. The thing that I detested, the mucusing--over time, I've come to see it as an example of why he is actually great. He isn't pretentious. He wears clogs, shorts, and values honest/natural sentiments in and out of the kitchen. He's there for the food and no cough is going to get in the way of that. He keeps it real. That is why I love his recent quote in Jay Rayner's forthcoming book The Man Who Ate the World. On scathing bloggers--

“It’s just people who hate things. But you know what? If they don’t like my beef cheek ravioli and the rock-and-roll we play on the sound system at Babbo, they can suck my dick. I don’t care.”

Damn straight, Mario. Damn straight.

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