Games foodies play
Modeled after Trivial Pursuit with some Pictionary thrown in, "What's Cooking" is moderately fun -- especially the "What's a Spatula?" category, in which you have to draw a kitchen tool specified on a card and your team has to guess what it is ("shrimp deveiner," "tea kettle"). The "Foodie First" category asks you to name as many items as you can in 30 seconds (traditional Mexican dishes, foods that begin with the letter O, etc.). "Melting Pot" wants to know in what country a particular dish originated; "Renowned Restaurants" asks where you find particular restaurants. Finally, the "What's Cookin'?" category lists ingredients, and you have to name the dish it makes. It's in this category that the game loses a bit of its "foodie" cred. To wit: "4 c. tart cherries, 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar, 4 Tbsp. cornstarch, 1/4 Tbsp. almond extract, 2 pre-made pie crusts, 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter" is the question; "Cherry pie" is the answer. Oh, please! Pre-made pie crusts? 4 tablespoons cornstarch? And what's with those weirdo abbreviations?
"Foodie Fight" blows "What's Cookin'?" out of the water. The questions, which are much sharper, are more fun for food geeks. For instance, a question that starts "What tiny songbird ... " separates the gastro-know-it-alls from the pikers. (The pikers have to wait to hear the rest of the question to attempt an answer; the know-it-alls will shout out "ortolan" right away.) There are smart food and wine pairing questions, real cooks' questions like "Which is the preferred cooking method for tougher cuts of meat -- dry-heat methods or moist-heat methods?"; and just plain silly stuff: "What did James Cagney smash into the face of actress Mae Clarke during a breakfast scene in the gangster film "The Public Enemy" (1931)?" (Again, serious types shouldn't need more than the first five words.)
So while "What's Cookin'?" would more likely appeal to your big extended family, "Foodie Fight" appeals to more dedicated foodists, with plenty of inside-baseball-type questions like "What sausage company founder writes award-winning, meat-focused cookbooks?" And the author, Joyce Lock, seems to have seriously good taste. Take the question whose answer is "Food blogs": "What are 'Gastropoda' and 'Chocolate and Zucchini'?" The latter, of course, is the popular blog that spawned a cookbook. And the former? It's the blog from Regina Schrambling, the Food section's New York correspondent. How cool is that?
-- Leslie Brenner
Photo by Leslie Brenner