The fasten seat belt sign chimed off and Nigella Lawson, though tired from her Stansted to Vegas direct, lept from her seat. Anticipation, Satyricon lust, anxiety, hope warred in the ample playground of her bosom. Her nipple twitched in anticipation like a runner at the starting blocks. "Will Padma recognize me?" she wondered, grabbing madly at her Blackberry, "Will I recognize her?" The two food porn actresses would be meeting for the first time since they shared a night of wild Sapphic passion at the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen last year. There, on a blanket of pine needles, Nigella had found herself in the circle of Padma's love. And though time and distance had cooled the warmth of that moment, Nigella hoped they could rekindle that spark and that in the hotter climes of Las Vegas, it could flame to contagion.
The whip-p0or-whill mourned the sun as it rose over the Top Chef complex. Inside, six chefs remained, a bunch of culinary Koreshians: Kevin the Redeemer, Eli the Pissant Devil, Jennifer the Dirty Angel, Mike the Mephistopheles, Bryan the CFO of The Afterlife and Robin The Insidious Echo. The chefs rose and entered into the intestines of the Venetian, a hotel that has recreated Italy but without the history, the Vespa fumes, the marble and the art. In a service kitchen, a phone rings. For the Quickfire, they must cook Padma breakfast. She's above them, in a bathrobe, glowing.
In a bathrobe, glowing, Padma wants breakfast. She has company, glowing and breakfast-wanting too. Things went well when Nigella cleared customs. Padma had had a rough week, nay, a rough year, but had buffed her skin to an Indian summer and had sugared her crotch to depilated perfection. Her landing strip was ready. Her breast too heaved with excitement and anticipation and also, since she had just taken a monster hit from Tom Colicchio's dragon bong, coughing. A speck of spittle, like a diamond froth, flecked her lips like in a Marilyn Minter photograph. As soon as Nigella and Padma beheld each other they held each other, one folding into the other like dough to dough. Later, they made love, watched The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 ("This is the most unrealistic movie I've ever seen," said Padma, "and not in a good way either.") and then went back to their twin beds and slept in their bathrobes. They were hungry for eggs.
Eli, fat baby, who doesn't eat breakfast because he's usually up so late at night playing Scrabble with his Mom at the home he shares with his parents, won. His recipe, a morning play on a Reuben sandwich, will be featured in a Top Chef cookbook. "Cool," he said, over and over. "That's cool, Eli," said Kevin and it was clear he did not think either Eli or his recipe were cool. "Cool,' said Eli, in response.
Doing a grave disservice to Las Vegas casinos, the contestants were then sent to be "inspired" by Las Vegas casinos. Eli attends the saddest Circus in the world, Circus Circus. A concession stand sold achos. Fake fare unfair games, manned by real carnies, preyed like leopards on the fat, the slow, the sick, the fannypacked hasbeen and neverwere calves suckling from the teat of capitalism and getting only thin sour milk. Eli correctly noted, "There's no circus at Circus Circus," and headed to a nearby brothel in Ely, NV, to pay $200 for a halfie. Robin went to the Bellagio and got her mind blown by the color there. "I'm an artist," she unhelpfully and incorrectly explains. Mike went to New York New York, home of fake September 11th and began to build a tenuous connection between firefighters and chicken wings. Bryan soberly assessed a shark tank somewhere. Jennifer gots to get completely hammered watching a wizard and wandered aimlessly across a never-ending pattern of carpet vines. Kevin fondled a dolphin. [Kevin: See The Cove and fondle dolphins no more.]
After their breakfasts, Padma felt gassy and Nigella felt jetlagged. Worse, the night of passion had left smoldering ashes. Worse still, it was by the light of their watch fire in the night, that each saw looming over the other the cast of characters and the accumulated responsibility that throttled their love. Padma worried that Nigella couldn't be the mother she wanted for her child. Nigella worried they could not make up for distance and the distance between their years. They knew their love was a fragile Chihuly flower, a suspended iridescent air bubble racing to the water's surface where it would burst to oblivion. Whether she saw its disappearance as freedom or as death was a secret neither Nigella nor Padma wanted the other to know.
Things were tense at the judge's table. Toby Young, like a child acting out during his parents' divorce, tried to break the ice by making some horrendous jokes. No one paid attention. NIgella tried to concentrate but it was all she could do to not break into tears. Her love was intact and at the same time irretrievable, like a memory beyond the grasp of recall or an insect in amber. For her part Padma, caught in a crossfire of emotion, sank into a slo-mo catatonia. The chefs stood in front of her close but far like in a tilt-shift photo, their words mere sounds and their food dead to a tongue once so passionately entangled. Toby Young, a tattler twat, prattled on, prawn-faced and shrimp-souled, a sad malignant skin tag on television, a twit melanoma given a platform, made even more profane by the love and beauty so close to him passing unheeded and uncaught like waves of a deeper frequency to which he will never be attuned.
It was either Sadcircusfatboy Eli, who tried to make soup from white chocolate and cashew nuts, or Cancertalkbot Robin, who made Nerf Panna Cotta, that would be going home. That much was clear. I had hoped it would be both. It was only Robin, who cried and didn't once bring up cancer. [She had cancer.] Her passing was less gleeful than I had hoped. It was more of an execution than a crime of passion. I won't miss her; no one will. She was no good. But neither is Eli and I am sure his parents miss him. Eli, you should go home. Your mother misses you.
The human soul is a stupid thing. Nigella and Padma held hands on the way to the airport. They weren't trying to recapture something they never had had anyway but merely grasp what was left. Hope trumps memory and the heart wisdom. Winsome and weeping, the two women, cocooned in the back seat of a Suburban packed with their baggage, cut through the Vegas traffic. They were deaf to the horns, deaf to reason, deaf to anything but each other. They were in an air bubble hurtling to the surface. Padma sighed and nestled into the nape of Nigella's neck. "We'll always have Vegas," she whispered. Nigella just laughed, looked out at the Strip where the neon lights, shining in the hot sun, futily glowed and awaited the night.
Thank you to Bruce and Mikey Byhoff and hero intern Yoni Lotan for the video.