Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Not like I’m obsessing about Gwyneth Paltrow or anything but a few weeks back there was a short piece in the New Yorker describing a launch party for her cookbook. Many a guest attested to Paltrow’s kitchen prowess, and then along came that famous bon viveur Michael Stipe, quoted as saying. “Once, a duck she was cooking caught fire, and she threw it in the pool.”  How we laughed. 

I, of course, wondered which poor minion got the job of removing the duck from the pool.  Somehow I imagine it wasn’t the divine Ms P. But hold on.  It appears that Gwyneth’s been telling the story herself on a British chat show, and it’s become considerably more baroque. On the Graham Norton Show it wasn’t just a duck, it was a whole “personal rotisserie.”  She described the event thus,  “I’ve been cooking for a long time now, so I’m pretty comfortable, but I actually had a horrible disaster last summer. I got this rotisserie and I wanted to rotisserie duck and it’s the perfect thing because all the fat renders off and you’re left with crispy duck … You have to put drip pans underneath the duck, but I’m such a moron that I didn’t realize one of the burners was on underneath the drip pans, so one of the pans caught fire. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen duck fat on fire, but it’s like a nuclear weapon and the whole thing exploded and we had to throw bits of it in the swimming pool. I had a fire extinguisher and I lost my eyebrows.” 

So now, it’s not the duck that’s on fire, but bits of the machine.  Even more crap.  Even more work for some poor bastard.

Anyway, of course I don’t know if any of this is actually true.  Nobody feels the need to tell the truth on chat shows or when New Yorker reporters are around.  Maybe it’s all just a joke.

But the composer Rossini (above), he of the Barber of Saville and William Tell,  and a more than adequate amateur chef, certainly wouldn’t have found it so funny.  According to unreliable history, Rossini wept only three times in his life: the first at the disaster of his first opera, the second when he heard Paganini play the violin, and finally, when he was at a picnic lunch on board a boat, and a turkey stuffed with truffles fell overboard.

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