I met Clinton Kelly! My favorite indie bookstore in Austin, BookPeople, has great author Q&As and book signing events. I don’t go as often as I’d like to, but when I saw that CK was slated, it was a no-brainer. He was there to promote his newest book, I Hate Everyone, Except You. Isn’t that a perfect title for him? Snarky and loving in the same breath. Clinton was as genuine and funny in the flesh as he comes across on TV. Not as snarky, but I suppose in public appearances, you have to rein that in. He had lots of stories to tell about his run on What Not to Wear and his audition process for The Chew. WNTW seemed the crowd favorite. I used to watch it, of course, usually with my sister Lydia, and still think to myself while clothes shopping, “WWCKD?” I really like him on The Chew, and it was a partial inspiration for this blog, as I watched it every single day after Thing One was born, and would think, “Well, I could do that!” You’ll notice that I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to The Chew’s Food. Clinton was smooth and kept the conversation flowing, even when the somewhat star-struck moderator could only think to say, “I’m so tickled to be doing this, I could chat with you all night!”
(I totally understand. I am a disaster in autograph lines, not that I’ve had much experience with them. When you only have a nanosecond to chat with the celebrity, you have to have something quick and snappy to hook them. I know this in my head, but in reality, I’m daydreaming about the conversations we would have over a leisurely lunch. Right about the time I’m at the head of the line, I realize that no coffee date is impending and I freeze. Next thing I know, I’m babbling something totally lame and cliche. It doesn’t help that… as my husband often laments… I am only witty in writing. Even that is debatable. I really should take an improv class. It would scare the shit out of me, but hot damn! I’d nail that autograph line.) Clinton was a gracious gentleman, even with my lame-o babbling, and I exited the store with an autographed book and most of my dignity intact. At least I looked good. You can’t knowingly meet a host of WNTW without taking some care with your outfit. Forgive the blurry pictures. I obviously handed my phone to the wrong person. Maybe it’s time to embrace the selfie…
Now that I’ve read the book, of course I have to review it. I mean, it’s perfect. He’s a co-host on The freakin Chew– there must be some foodie nuggets inside, right? I know from his social media posts that he’s also a reader. The premise of this blog should be right up his alley. Wouldn’t it be fun if he wrote a guest post? (hint, hint)
CK’s memoir has a myriad of tones: some of it, as Jane Lynch reviewed on the back cover, “had me doubled over laughing and trying to catch my breath!” (The water park story might make you lose your own water out of some bodily orifice.) Some of it is retaliatory, (eh, I’m not a Paula Deen fan either; she’s got it coming.) Some of it is a little preachy, (The hallucinatory Mr. President rant is a thinly-veiled rundown of the author’s opinions about several hot topic political issues. It’s perfectly appropriate to discuss your viewpoints in your own memoir, but to me there was a forced sense of laissez–faire about it.) I loved the part about saving all of his Grandma for himself. I miss my Grandma every day, I get it. If you don’t like him on TV, if you think he’s “a alkahalic and a idiot,” if your ears burn at the thought of a cuss word or vulgar reference, you won’t like this book, obviously. You won’t even like this review. On the flip side, if you want a collection of personal anecdotes that ripples with lighthearted wit, this is the escapist memoir for you.
As far as food references go, there are a smattering. I wouldn’t say that they play a vital role in the framing of the book, but some are used as clichés: a vodka and cranberry is sissy, crepes are gay enough to push his Harley-loving step-father down the basement steps, and chicken cutlets are the staple of 1970s suburbia and beyond. I wish I had this book in e-format so I could search for how many times the phrase “chicken cutlets” is used (spoiler alert: a lot). I have no idea why– there must be a symbol I could eke out of it, but maybe it’s just the mundane, weeknight meal that first comes to his mind. Clinton uses only one food reference from The Chew as part of a sample daily itinerary– macadamia-crusted chicken with mango and pineapple salsa. It’s not stated whether this is one of his favorite recipes, or if it is truly a random itinerary, but we’ll go with it for this week’s menu. The perk to making this entrée (a first for this blog!), thanks to abc.com, is that we can use the author’s actual recipe for our recreation. I honestly laughed out loud when I read one of the menu tips at the end of the recipe: “may substitute chicken cutlets for the tenderloins.” Thanks. Don’t mind if I do.
Okay, here’s the thing that’s going to blow your mind. I don’t know what chicken cutlets are. Can my foodie vocabulary get any sadder? Thank God a device exists that can help me out here; if this project were pre-Internet, I’d be forced to buy a culinary encyclopedia the size of Paula Deen’s butter stockpile. I’m really liking the definition of chicken cutlets. It finally gives me the answer to how to handle those boneless, skinless, chicken breasts that are, like, a DD cup size (certified-antibiotic-free-but-sure-as-hell-must-still-be-on-steroids). Slice them thin. Pound them flat. I have the excuse to buy one of these fun kitchen tools and take out some parental stress on a hide other than my children’s (kidding). Okay, now we’re cooking.
I made this meal on a night perfect for making chicken cutlets. Specifically, using a meat tenderizer. I was so ANGRY at the world that evening. It was a pre-trip, “I’m never going to get everything done before we leave,” type of stress that pounding out chicken cutlets and crushing macadamia nuts was perfect for. The recipe states that it takes 15-30 minutes. Don’t believe it. Maybe I’m just slow, but between the chicken pounding and nut crushing and salsa dicing and mango peeling and cutlet frying, it took me a good hour to make this meal. Come to think of it, I should have pulled out my food processor, but that would have created even more dishes to wash before our trip… Anyway, the result? Delish. Definitely a keeper. If you’re good about forethought, you could make up the salsa ahead of time (even can it, if you’re crafty like my sister), and just pan-fry the cutlets for a breezy weeknight meal.
In the end, this book left me with two questions. Why does CK call his mom by her first name? The second question burns in light of a dark day, 1/20/17. A quote from the book: “And that even if he, or someone just as horrible, becomes president, it’s not worth jumping ship.” The metaphor confuses me because earlier in the chapter, he learned that the people who did jump off of a ship (literally, not metaphorically), were the ones who survived. I’m just saying, Sweden is looking pretty good these days.
P.S. I just found out that I might be a psychopath, because my brain BLEW UP at the chapter title on page 191.