It is time to prepare Simon Cowell’s exit package from American Idol: the touching musical journey in which the highs, the lows, the tragedies, the triumphs, the moments are reduced to 3-1/2 minutes of video clips.
This is a job for Norman Gentle.* It also calls for a proper British supper of bangers and mash. And since Mr. Cowell looms large in popular culture, there will be two surprise guests that have already been spoilered.
Four Potatoes & A Parsnip: Didn’t they have a minor Motown hit circa 1963? Having looked up the nutrition information for parsnips, I know there is no conceivable reason ever to hide one amidst one’s mashed potatoes. But it’s good practice for more challenging projects, such as tricking children into eating turnips.
While peeling these babies, cutting them into chunks, and sticking them in a bowl of water in the microwave for 4 minutes (parsnip) and about 7 minutes (potatoes), let’s slip over to iTunes and check out Gentle’s “Brit Slap.” This is a back-handed tribute to Simon Cowell by comedian Nick Mitchell in his guise as Norman/Normund Gentle. Or so I gather. It seems that I’m the only person in America who isn’t in on the joke, which involves wearing shorts and a headband.
Fortunately, comprehension is irrelevant. In the manner of the better MAD magazine movie parodies, the song is weirdly convincing on its own merits, with a danceable beat, a hooky chorus, and enough near-but-not-quite clichés to make the lyrics both memorable and slightly silly.
Let’s celebrate by shelling some English peas. We know these peas are English because they’re burly little fellows who say things like “malarkey” and “right-o, old chap.”
Given 30 seconds in the microwave with a little water, these will soon be peas that are peas in a pot. Meanwhile, I am smothering the cooked potatoes in butter and plain yogurt (did I mention I have a lot of plain yogurt hanging around?), preparatory to introducing our first Surprise Musical Guest.
Please welcome fellow Brit (okay, he’s Welsh) Sir Tom Jones, here to sing Cowell’s all-time favorite song.
Do you think Cowell would have the nerve to say, “That’s a little bit cruise ship”? If so, Jones might be justified in giving him some backtalk, as his repertoire has covered all the bases an Idol could want to skid into, including rock, pop, show tunes, R&B, country, and techno. (Wikipedia whispered this in my ear, and if there was some nibbling at the lobe, that’s between me and it.) For his next album, after his move back to the U.K., Jones intends to sing the phonebook… of Caerdydd. Listen for him to make those Welsh “wy” combinations sound devastatingly sexy (he can sing my name all day, please, thank you, even if he’s more than old enough to be my father).
Meanwhile, it turns out that if those potatoes were fork-tender, I need a tougher fork. I can’t re-nuke potatoes drenched in yogurt, so I tossed them into a hot skillet and hoped for the best.
It turns out that yogurt, when heated with butter, turns into a sort of cheese-like substance. Cheese-like substances inevitably remind us of Idol group sings and the challenge of making songs from the 1960s sound relevant. Another U.K. act, the Frank Popp Ensemble, is here to help.
It swings. It grooves. It recreates the sound of Cowell’s swinging youth. I vote he hire the act as a wedding band. Everyone will dance. And inquiring minds have a wicked urge to see Cowell shimmy.
The cheesy potato bits are salty and sour and as wickedly fun as the aforementioned urge. I was walking around eating bits straight from the pan.
That’s an Aidell’s chicken-apple sausage, with the remains of the onion relish standing in for the traditional onion gravy. (Yes, this is the one cooking blog that admits to the existence of leftovers… prodigious amounts of same.) It’s a pretty good Yul Brynner, if I do say so myself.
*I owe this idea to a tweet from MrAndrewCook. Not only do I have leftovers (and plain yogurt galore!), I have footnotes. At any moment, I make break out in appendices and lexicons.