I just finished watching the first episode of “Spain…on the Road Again.” It’s on PBS (love it), and features chef Mario Batali, food writer Mark Bittman, and actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Claudia Bassols. And I’m gonna write about it, so GET READY.
1. Dueling Mercedes convertibles. As if we needed to be reminded that these people are rich, famous and fabulous. Although since all they seem to do is drive around anyway, I guess having no roofs on the cars makes for better lighting.
2. I love that they all call Mark Bittman, “Bittman.”
3. Bittman and Claudia conversations = creepy and boring. Claudia speaks six languages and is an otherwise fascinating person. All Bittman does is close-talk her and make her say stuff in Spanish. She looks like an exchange student who’s fighting off her host family’s lecherous dad.
4. Check out Gwyneth busting out the Spanish! I love her ten hundred times. And she comes across as completely down to earth and calm. Also, she is hilariously “whatever, dude” about the obviously contrived scenes.
5. Gwyneth and Claudia have obvious chemistry, and Mario and Bittman do, too – so by all means, SWITCH IT UP SO NO ONE HAS ANY CHEMISTRY. Ugh.
6. Or, better yet, just dump Mario and Bittman. Sorry, guys, I know you know your way around a kitchen; and Mario, I’ve eaten at Babbo and it was indeed a religious experience – but Tony Bourdain has the foodie guy’s-guy niche all sewn up, and you two are no Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman when it comes to road tripping.
The story of the show, explained in the beginning of the episode, is that Mario and Bittman wanted to do it alone, but Gwyneth talked her way into it. So now that they had this girl, whom they obviously had no idea what to do with, they dragged Claudia into the mix.
It comes off as incredibly sexist, which is rich coming from these two mama’s boys. So, I confess I was especially pleased when Gwyneth and Claudia proceed to kick their culinary and linguistic asses all over the map.
Gwyneth and Claudia are like the anti-Paris and Nicole. They’re multilingual, well-spoken, the camera loves them both and best of all, they’ve never met a meal they didn’t like. Their one breakfast scene together was riveting, with the two of them weaving in and out of languages and shoveling in churros like they might never see food again. I could have watched that for an hour, but instead it cuts to Mario and Bittman stumbling around a fish market and barely conversing.
So, PBS, my advice is to lose the guys and keep the girls. We need to see beautiful women who are smart, classy and who don’t treat food like it’s the enemy.