10 foods that made me feel loved (Inspired by Top Chef Seattle, episode 14, "Kings of Alaska")

"It's life. It's family. It's joy." -Chef Lizzie Binder

The quote up there belongs to Lizzie. She said that during the "Kings of Alaska" episode last night and she was referring to cooking, of course. Lizzie, unfortunately, was asked to pack up her knives after making salmon with citrus and beets on homemade, individual rolls of sourdough, which she said she had never made before. The judges loved, loved, loved her sourdough, but the whole dish was not seasoned well enough to them. (Lizzie said she used gray salt, judges! Gray salt! Gah!)

Chef Lizzie Binder
top chef, season 10, seattle, elizabeth binder, bravo

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Lizzie has a history, or should we say a legacy, of cooking from her heart. She puts a lot of thought and love and emotion into the items that she makes. To her, cooking is a way of showing love. This perspective made me think of the foods that my family makes that show love. (I know this is sappy, but, come on, it's February, after all!)

Pepper steak
My mom made it all the time when we were growing up. She never makes it anymore, but I remember the smell of it and loved that she made it for us.
Scrambled eggs
She would put me on the counter and ask me to stir the eggs. I probably sat there for a better part of a week stirring those suckers up just to be kept busy, but...I felt loved anyway.
Potato salad
I love my mom's potato salad. It is so, so, sooo good. I know when she makes it, she knows it will make me happy. I'm convinced that is partly why she does it.
German chocolate cake
My grandmother's German chocolate cake is THE BEST. She makes it for family birthday parties and I'm always tempted to eat the entire thing.
Fried shrimp
My uncle was a shrimper and always gave us lots of shrimp each year. Cleaning, deveining, breading and frying those shrimp was an all-day, multi-family member affair. And they were gooood.
Spanish rice
When my dad would visit me in college, he would buy the ingredients to make this for me at my apartment. He just used Rice-A-Roni, but he would add things to it to make it really good.
Dinner salad
I know that is a crazy one, but when my grandmother makes it, she chops up all of the celery just right and the lettuce is bite size. She puts in cucumbers and tomatoes. It's just perfect.
Peach tea
Okay, it's not a food, but I used to always look forward to drinking my mother-in-law's peach tea. She always made a pitcher of it when we came to visit because she knew we loved it.
Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
My sister makes REALLY good chocolate chip cookies and she puts chunky salt on top of it. I am going to ask her where she got the recipe for them. Anyway, she knows I want to eat every last cookie when she makes them and I know she makes them because we love them.

(That list could probably go on for a mile.)

Let's get back to the show for a minute...

The morning of the elimination challenge started with Brooke, Lizzie, Josh and Sheldon hand-picking salmon that had just arrived from the cold Alaskan waters. This event brought to Lizzie's mind her father, whom she had recently lost. He was a very active fisherman and taught Lizzie how to gut and clean a fish when she was a little girl. She said that she was very sad the rest of the day and those emotions were essentially showcased in her dish, which, I mean, let's be honest, was probably absolutely delicious. But, you know, those chefs and their hoity-toity "hit of acid" and "I'm not getting enough herb" taste buds.

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While in Alaska, after Brooke won the Elimination Challenge, which required making a dish with salmon and sourdough and serving it to Alaskan natives during a Salmon Bake (akin to a southern "fish fry"), Lizzie battled Kristen in Last Chance Kitchen. Kristen ended up the victor there, even though Tom was devouring Lizzie's salmon stew. He was digging in for more. Kristen's was obviously very good, too, but I think it was a very, very close contest. Lizzie was proud of her dish and felt her father would be very proud, too. In fact, Tom said if Lizzie had made that dish in the Elimination Challenge, she would have won that trip to Costa Rica.

When I watch Top Chef, I have so many emotions. I never knew a cooking show would stir those feelings up in me! If you sat beside me while watching the show, you'd see that...

I'm laughing: Sheldon did lots of funny stuff during this episode. He mimicked Dr. Evil's "million dollars" quote in Austin Powers. He pretended he was playing Yahtzee while scraping up fish parts (or something like that!) off a cutting board. He served chum salmon, which is typically used to serve dogs in Alaska. That was sort of funny. (The Alaskans still loved it!)

I'm crying: Lizzie shared pictures of her dad and herself when she was little. She teared up. Her voice cracked and her eyes watered. I can't imagine. I love my mom and dad so very, very much. I can't imagine losing one of them. The thought alone sends me searching for a Kleenex.

I'm "huh??"ing: So, during the challenge, the chefs used a "sourdough starter" that had been around for 31 years. One Alaskan that attended the Salmon Bake claimed that his family's sourdough starter dated back from the 1800s! That is, if I understood that right. Emeril talked about "feeding the starter" and others talked about how you have to take care of the starter like it was a small child. Okay, thanks to Wikipedia, a starter contains yeast, water and flour. You feed the starter water and flour periodically to keep the starter happy. (Wikipedia was much more scientific.) It's like a yeast fish tank or something that lasts, like, forever.

I'm "that's enough"ing: My husband pointed out that it takes the chefs longer to name their dish than it does to actually cook it. Can I get an Amen? For example, during Last Chance Kitchen, Kristen made "Cod with Coconut Broth, Clam Juice, Lime, Chili-Marinated Tomato, Corn, and Petite Herbs" and Lizzie made" Poached Salmon Stew with Fennel, Leek, Hungarian Paprika, and Sweet Pepper Flakes". "Cod Stew" and "Salmon Soup" just won't cut it.

I'm "Ew, yuck!"ing: Sheldon's dish,which won the Quickfire, used the innards of the crab. Sheldon used the "eggs in the crab's head". I don't even want to Google that. What's with chefs and the innards? (I wrote about that craziness in Top 10 Things I Will Never, Ever, Ever Eat. Like, Ever.) What not just stick with the outtards?? Outtards. That's what I'm going to say the next time I'm in a five-star restaurant. "AND I ONLY WANT THE OUTTARDS!!", I'll shout as the waiter turns on his heels to give our order to the kitchen.

I'm "What does that mean again?"ing: Two words: succotash and poach. These came up during this episode. I know I should know these things, but I don't feel like I have a firm grasp of them. All I've ever knew about succotash is that it suffers and Sylvester the Cat spits while talking about it. When I think of poaching, I think of big spears while also thinking of steam. Turns out "poaching" has two meanings, one being the unlawful taking of animals and the other being simmering food in a small amount of liquid, such as milk, stock or wine. Succotash is a dish primarly made of corn and lima beans, or any other type of shell bean.

I'm comparing: "Don't you think that guy, Sean Brock, sort of looks like the guy from Better Off Dead?", I asked my husband. Sean Brock is apparently a big deal in the food world. He owns McCrady & Husk (in Charleston & Nashville) and apparently "modernized" Southern food, per Josh. (Better not mess with my cornbread, Mr. Brock! Don't go throwing crazy stuff in there! I like my cornmeal, eggs, honey and butter!) Still, despite all of his modernizing, I kept thinking of that dude in the very awesome movie, Better Off Dead.

This dude:


See the resemblance?


Okay, it's not huge. I'll admit that.

I still thought it.

I'm busy.

(When this show is over, I'm going to need to take a vacation.)

There are still just a few weeks left.

Annnnnd...there are only THREE remaining contestants: Brooke, Josh and Sheldon. These guys (and a girl!) will eventually go up against the one who wins the battle in Last Chance Kitchen. Kristen is the current victor and she will go up against the person who is saved during this LAST and FINAL Save-A-Chef competition between Chef Lizzie and Chef CJ that ends TODAY (2/7/13), at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (New York!), which is 11:00 a.m. Central (Texas!), which is 10:00 a.m. Mountain Standard (Denver!), which is 9:00 a.m. Pacific (California!).

So, go vote on Twitter!

This image is from www.bravotv.com/top-chef but the modifications on the right are mine.

I, personally, will be voting for Lizzie. With the exception of her unbelievable skill in the kitchen and her accent, I just see too much of myself in her. We are the same age, she has two kids near my kids' ages, she thinks the world of her dad and, duh, brown hair. She also made me remember that food is more than food. It is a way to show love.

What would be on your list of foods that made you feel loved either growing up or make you feel loved now?
(Thanks, Lizzie, and best of luck!)

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