One of the things I love most about my job — and journalism in general — is the immense variety in what you might write or learn about on any given day. I was drawn to an anthropology major at Hamline for the same reason. As I often tell people, nothing is better than being able to study mix tapes and tape worms in the same day, in the same department. (If you’re curious, the classes were: Hip-Hop in a Global Perspective and The Anthropology of Infectious Diseases, respectively; both were great.)
In that vein, I wrote a number of blog posts for NPR.org last month about wildly different but fascinating subjects. It started with a photo project on doppelgängers, which are people who look alike but aren’t related. On the other end of the spectrum was an obituary on a Polish nail polish inventor whose product is now taking off among Muslim women in particular.
But perhaps the most fun was covering the Bocuse d’Or cooking competition, which I wrote about for NPR’s food blog, The Salt. The biennial event takes place in Lyon, France, and is like the World Cup/Olympics among chefs. Since I couldn’t fly to Europe, I followed it like I did the World Championship Cheese Contest last year — via a live stream and on Twitter.
The only complication this time around was that the Bocuse d’Or started at 3 a.m. Eastern time. No problem, I just set an alarm for the middle of the night, hooked up my computer to the TV and watched right from the couch like it was ESPN 3. And it really was like a sporting event — fans wore face paint and blasted on vuvuzelas the entire time. It was also entertaining to see just how many hardcore foodies on Twitter wrote off sleep to watch with me.
One of the most interesting angles was how the U.S. team prepared this year: that is, underground in a former nuclear bunker with an exact replica of the kitchen they would use in France. They even piped in crowd noise to simulate the chaotic environment of the competition.
The team went to all those extremes because they had something to prove. Unlike the Olympics, the U.S. doesn’t dominate the event and, in fact, has never medaled. Despite a great effort and a beautiful dish inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater” house (see side image), they came up short again this year and placed seventh.
I’m already setting my early morning alarm for 2015.