Minneapolis, Minnesota,
March 30
Michael Dane is America's favorite middle-aged, Jewish, bisexual social satirist. Or, at least one of them. Often referring to himself in the third person, he used to do standup comedy on the road, but now he just writes down funny things. His book of food humor, called "Does This Taste Funny? A Half-Baked Look at Food and Foodies," is available at Amazon.com


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OCTOBER 1, 2011 11:46AM

what's your catchphrase?

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There's always a little down time when you're cooking, whether you're waiting for your eggs to poach, your onions to caramelize, or your roux to get...roux-ey enough.

I think cooking is like baseball, or jazz, in that, to enjoy them, you have  to get past the fact that, in all three, there seem to be times when nothing's really, you know, happening. The biggest difference between the three is that Ken Burns has yet to do a twelve part documentary about cooking. Yet.

I use my idle time in the kitchen thinking about philosophy and coming up with crackpot theories, which I guess then should be called crockpot theories. I don't bother with meaning-of-life stuff, since that ground has been covered pretty well. I like to fold my philosophy into my cooking, like I'm making a pie-crust out of ideas. And a pie-crust should be flaky, right?

I wrestle with the questions that have troubled cooks for centuries, like "Can you cook chicken in beef stock?" (which, by the way I will not try--it just seems wrong and disturbing). Or, "Is it wrong to have noodles AND potatoes in the same meal?" (this is known amongst philosopher-cooks as the Starch Conundrum).

As much time as I've spent thinking about cooking, I have yet to figure out the answer to the fundamental question all aspiring chefs should ask themselves--"What is my catchphrase?" A cook without a catchphrase is just...someone cooking! Who would want to watch that?

From "Kick it up a notch" to "Yummo," the chefs making the big-time tv bucks all have that one phrase or word that brands them. The thing they say when they add the lemon zest, or make peaks in their meringues. I need one of those.

Initially, I wanted it to be just one syllable--one big flavorful syllable, like Emeril's "Bam!" (Hey--why does he get to use that AND ""Kick it up a notch"? I think he should have to pick one) .

I thought I had it when I spent a week or two saying "Boom" while I was cooking. Now I'm new at this, so I may have overused it. I guess it's overkill to shout "Boom!" when you're just, say, adding a sprig of parsley.  Doesn't matter--some sandwich guy on Food Network beat me to it. So I need to find something nobody's using.

I considered going really retro with some vintage slang. I could shout "Applesauce!," but that really only makes sense if I've just made applesauce. I really like 'pish-posh,' and it sorta sounds like a food item ("I'll have the curried pish-posh"), but it's a bit too snooty for the food I like to cook.

I need a word or phrase that just pops out at you, or that would look good on an overpriced apron once I'm famous and selling signature aprons. One of my favorite Yiddish words is "davka," which, like most Yiddish words, cannot be translated. I've seen definitions ranging  from "of course" to "annoyingly" to "in his own inimitable way."

I should probably only use that if I'm cooking for a Passover seder, davka, I'll have to try something else. Sticking with Yiddish for a moment, I could always liven up my hypothetical cooking show with the Roaring Twenties favorite mazuma, which meant money, as in " This casserole is SO mazuma."

Desperately wanting something as my trademark exclamation, and wanting it to have a little cosmopolitan cachet, I turned to the web and found the phrase "Ahnaal Natrakh," which was supposedly part of a Merlin's Charm of Making (according to the 1981 movie Excalibur featuring Helen Mirren, Nicol Williamson, and at least one Redgrave, so I'm sure it's historically accurate)

Unfortunately, after I'd rehearsed how I would use my cool new catchphrase, I learned that "Ahnaal Natrakh" is also the name of a death-metal band in the UK known for songs such as "Castigation and Betrayal" and "Screaming of the Unborn" off their album "Hell Is Empty and All The Devils Are Here." Not really the vibe I'm going for.

I could turn to pop culture, but all I could think of were sci-fi catchphrases like "Resistance is futile!," which would be dramatic but maybe overly pushy ("And now, you garnish the soup, and realize RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!").  Or what about something more old school--every time I add an ingredient I could say, "By the power of Greystoke!"

Superheroes always have catchphrases, and since I already wear a cape and a tights when I cook (there's a mental picture for you), I could go that direction. The Torch's "Flame On!" would work unless you're dealing with an electric range, in which case you would have to shout "Warm Up Gradually," which doesn't really have the same impact.

Eventually I hit a wall and just started trying random phrases. How 'bout "Take the next train to Tastyville?" I considered going edgy with "Put that in your Dutch oven!" Then I thought about going understated, so my hook phrase could be "Now THAT'S edible!"

I think I finally found the inspiration for my catchphrase in a Nat 'King' Cole song from 1945 called "The Frim-Fram Sauce." In the lyric, the singer lists the foods he doesn't want, and ends each verse with the same gibberish words:

I want the frim-fram sauce with the ausen fay
With chafafah on the side.

Well there's at least two potential catchphrases right there! "Let's add a little frim-fram!" is perfect, because it could refer to anything you throw into the dish. But even better--chafafah. Not only does it sound like an exotic food (something you might have with a side of tabouli), it's just plain fun to say!

"Next you'll add your basil, and...chafafah!" "Dredge the pork chop in the flour and--chafafah!" The best thing about it is, since it's a made-up word, you can even use it as a curse if you want--"I put in too much salt--chafafah!"

Go ahead and laugh, but by next  year you'll be flipping through your Williams-Sonoma catalog and see a full line of CHAFAFAH kitchenware. Aprons, cutting boards, spatulas, you name it. And I'll be rollin' in the mazuma.

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Two of your final choices were really good. Chafafah is one of them and "now THAT'S edible!" is the other.

Either would look good on an apron.

Now I'm going to be looking for times to use those phrases!
All of your suggestions have a certain je ne sais quoi if you have the right attitude. I kind of like the understatement of "Now, that's edible!"
Well you can keep your Chafafah, but I prefer, "Now that's orgasmic!" But it's mine and you can't have it. HA!
Chafafah has it, for sure. I can't top it.

As for: "Can you cook chicken in beef stock?" (which, by the way I will not try--it just seems wrong and disturbing)... I KNOW! TOTALLY DISTURBING!
Sir, your writing is really wonderful. I just shared this on Facebook, and called you my “favorite humorist.” Cheers!
Davka, baby. Another great piece.
So... do you think it's chaFAfa or chafaFAH or CHAfafah? Maybe all 3 depending on the usage!

This is a very good word.
I once actually heard my brother-in-law's band do a version of "The Frim Fram Sauce"!

And I'd be totally willing to shell out a few simoleons to get a t-shirt with "Now That's Edible!" emblazoned on it.
Entertaining as usual Mr. Comedy. I was going to offer Bastante Bueno but I guess you have already dialed into Chafafah. May you become rich and famous and Chafafah become the new catch phrase.
Love it! I will look forward to the day when Chafafah is a household word!!
"Seek...and you shall be found."

"Cook...and they will come."

That's just the quick answer. Now I will read your entire post!
OK, so pasta and potatoes, I believe, can be found in most Minestrone soup recipes. Me thinks. Other soups as well. There should be potato pasta as well. Why not?

You say, "Frim fram." I say, "Flim Flam."

No idea why. Just heard the latter and not the former.

Love how you combine culinary tempties with intellectual botulism.

Well, I really don't mean that your intellect is tainted. It just came out that way.

Poetic nonsense.

Loved your post. Let me run amuck!
ks: i'll put you down for two aprons...
sweetfeet: yeah, you don't want to use them inappropriately!
Miguela: I can be known as The Self-Deprecating Chef...
Christine: i'm not sure it would work for me--i need a little more experience before i can guarantee orgasms...
jane: love that you got the Greystoke reference--thanks!
Jane: you're one of like seven votes for 'chafafah'--i've created a movement!
Mark:i'm honored...thanks for the support, man...
Mary: thanks,darlin'!
keri: i think it's like speaking mandarin, where the same word pronounced differently has a whole different meaning...
Jeanette: i guess i'll be making at least two aprons, as that's now the second vote for 'edible'...
Dr:love how you think!
Susie: thanks!
Cathy: LOVE your poetic nonsense--and i wanna copyright the phrase 'culinary tempties'...
How "ain't horse meat" or "shazam"! R
I always wondered what to do while I waited for things to cook. Those little down times in the kitchen. What to do in that microwave minute? I can very easily go into the next room to just check something on the computer and then smell something burning and run back. Geez. I have to quit that. Thanks for the inspiration to stay on track.
Yup. I'm with you on chafafah. Sounds kinda like Jimmy Durante's Hotch-cha-cha-cha, thus you could say it with a wicked twinkle in your eye.

Agree with others: entertaining and funny, comme toujours!
Chafafah it is. I will be first in line to buy your apron but you better write a cookbook and get on QVC; that's where the big bucks are.
I don't know Michael, when I'm cooking there's very little down time and consequently I've never given any thought to a catchphrase. When I'm in my kitchen the atmosphere is akin to an inner city ER on a Friday night in July and I'm the only doc on duty: I'm constantly mopping my brow with a dishtowel, my temper flares, I bark orders, yell and curse profusely as buzzers go off, things boil over, doors slam (mainly the oven and fridge) and chaos reigns. Come to think of it maybe I do have a catchphrase based on the state of my mind when I cook (and one you may be able to relate to): Meshugenah!

P.S. Yes a pie crust should be flaky and lard makes the flakiest piecrust.

P.P.S. "make peaks in their merengues" Do you dance while you beat egg whites?

P.P.P.S. It may be a crime against nature and Julia Child but chicken noodle soup (has to be Reames noodles) over mashed potatoes is geshmak.
Groovy post man, or should I say, Graavy post man!
I like "Flame On!" short sweet and to the point, unless you're making ice cream.
Bravo Chef, or is that Chafafah?!?! Fun and refreshing read! Personally, I like Tastyville cause it sounds like a place with old fashion depot and country fair. I'll have some more of that chafafah over there...please.
I want something roux-ey.
Always a pleasure and then some, my catchphrase is ...If at first you don't succeed, then so much for parachuting.....
If you could get a line of really funky kitchen knife holders I'll be super happy. Standard knife blocks are boring.