Not My Job: 3 Questions For Chef Jacques Pépin About Jockstraps
BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm the anchor real men tattoo onto their chest - Bill Kurtis.
KURTIS: And here's your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you, Bill. Thank you so much. The year...
SAGAL: ...Has hardly begun, but it is never too early to indulge in nostalgia. So we're going to present to you this week some things we really enjoyed from the last year.
KURTIS: Because we thought about doing a show from the beach on Saint Barths, but the - well, the sand kept getting in the microphones.
SAGAL: One of the most fun and certainly one of the most tasty interviews we've done recently was with acclaimed chef and television personality, Jacques Pepin.
KURTIS: Peter began by jumping right in on his favorite topic - eating.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
JACQUES PEPIN: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
SAGAL: Oh, it's such a pleasure.
SAGAL: So I have to say that I have been reading your memoir this week, and it is - it's called "The Apprentice." It is so charming, a story...
PEPIN: I'm sorry, put you to sleep, right?
SAGAL: No, it was delightful. And I've even been making the recipes - like, I made the eggs in the style of your mother Jeannette. They were delicious.
PEPIN: Oh, yeah, yeah.
SAGAL: It was awesome.
PEPIN: Yeah, you liked it?
SAGAL: They were delicious. I would say thank your mother for me, but I'm sure it's too late for that. They're just...
PEPIN: Not that late - she only died last year.
ROY BLOUNT, JR.: Only died last night.
SAGAL: OK, well, her eggs were great. Some of the things...
SAGAL: Now, just to sort of fill in our audience if they don't know, you grew up during the war in France.
SAGAL: Times were tough, and you describe some of the things your mother made for you, including a dish that I think you called mou? Am I...
PEPIN: Yeah, mou. Yes, right, mou.
SAGAL: And was that the one with the lung?
PEPIN: That's delicious (laughter). This is the lung of a lamb, usually or calf. So, you know, what you have to do - because when you buy the lung the air has gone out of it. So it kind of shrank - so first, you have to blow - you have to blow into the trachea to expand the lung.
PEPIN: And then you cut it into pieces, and you do it with onion and red wine. It's really disgusting.
LUKE BURBANK: I'm pretty sure that dish will get you arrested here the in the States, chef.
BLOUNT: Is that why you call it mou, because when you cut into it, it...
PEPIN: It moos (laughter). Yeah, it moos.
SAGAL: Now when your - you have a daughter.
SAGAL: And when she was little, did you say something to her, like, oh, I'm going to cook for you what my mother made for me when I was your age. Here is some lung.
PEPIN: Yes, I did it.
SAGAL: You did? You made lung for your daughter?
PEPIN: But she was 3 years old. At that age, she could not refuse it.
SAGAL: And has she forgiven you now, sir?
PEPIN: No, not really.
SAGAL: Your story though is amazing. You were making - you were a professional chef by the age of 17. And you ended up - I couldn't believe this - cooking for Charles de Gaulle, the president of France.
PEPIN: Actually, from '56 to '59, I cooked for three French presidents and the three of them are dead.
SAGAL: How much lung did you feed them, chef?
PEPIN: Well, until they died.
SAGAL: Not your fault though? You...
PEPIN: Not my fault, yes, not my fault.
SAGAL: So you say - OK, you had just finished cooking for the president of France. And I'm assuming...
SAGAL: ...You could've gone to work at any restaurant in Paris, maybe opened your own. But you decided to go to America. Why?
PEPIN: Because America was the golden fleece, you know, the El Dorado. I say I'll go there for a year or two and learn the language. And I'm here half a century later, and I still haven't gotten the language right.
SAGAL: It's better than my French. What was American cuisine cooking like when you came to America, say that was around 1950 or so?
PEPIN: 1959, the end of 1959, yes. It was only - there was one salad in the supermarket. That was iceberg.
SAGAL: Iceberg lettuce, yeah.
PEPIN: Yeah, there was no lettuce. There was no leaks, no shallots and I remember going to Midtown, Manhattan, and asking at a supermarket where are the mushrooms? They say aisle five, and that was canned mushrooms. They didn't have any fresh mushrooms at the time. So it was quite a different world.
SAGAL: And you didn't immediately jump back into the ocean and start swimming back to France.
NEKO CASE: Seriously.
PEPIN: No, the beef was incredible. The beef was incredible and the lime and the lobster. And the girls were beautiful in New York, too.
SAGAL: Oh, yeah.
SAGAL: And by the end of the ‘60s though, you were a very well-known chef, is that not right?
PEPIN: Well, not really. By the end of the ‘60s, I was working for Howard Johnson.
SAGAL: Wait a minute. You worked for Howard Johnson. For people who don’t remember because they’re almost gone, Howard Johnson was this chain restaurant...
PEPIN: The fried clams...
PEPIN: ...And the clam chowder - yes, it was terrific.
SAGAL: You made the recipe for those fried clams that I ate I don’t know how much of?
PEPIN: Well, I didn’t make the recipe. I improved the recipe.
PEPIN: It was very good. It was a family restaurant and good price. And they did an incredible Manhattan. And that’s where I learned how to make cocktails.
SAGAL: Make cocktails?
PEPIN: Yes, right. Yes. And that’s where I learned how to make the proper hamburger as well, so...
SAGAL: Can you tell...
PEPIN: I learned a lot.
SAGAL: Can you tell us, as one of the most acclaimed chefs really in the world, what is the secret to the correct hamburger?
PEPIN: Well, mine, I do it with - with brisket - you know, Jewish brisket...
SAGAL: Oh, I know it well.
PEPIN: ...Big, fat Jewish brisket...
PEPIN: OK, you do it, OK. So I ground that and etch out the right amount of fat, do this and make it very juicy. And when you put it on the grill, don’t press on it. You take the juice out of it. And I like it with iceberg lettuce and onion and tomato. And I toast my bread, and I rub it with garlic after they are toasted. And I make the best hamburger you ever have in your life.
SAGAL: That sounds pretty awesome.
SAGAL: When you go into a restaurant, is the restaurant terrified to cook for you? You're Jacques Pepin.
PEPIN: I hope so.
PEPIN: No, they are not. They are not, no.
SAGAL: If you ever get a restaurant - go to a restaurant where you don't know the owner and the food is bad, do you send it back? Do you say something? Or do you...
PEPIN: No, no, the chef come and - you know, and he asked me what do you think? And I usually say, you know what? You'll never be better than today.
SAGAL: That's - that's very good.
PEPIN: Yeah, take it the way you want.
SAGAL: We actually - we had a question for you. I'm going to ask it. Let's assume that you knew the world was about to end - tomorrow, Donald Trump's inauguration. So this...
PEPIN: Oh, my God.
SAGAL: So this is your last meal.
SAGAL: What would you choose for your last meal?
PEPIN: Well, if it's my last meal, it's going to be very, very, very, very long.
PEPIN: Like, three months or...
SAGAL: Well, chef Jacques Pepin, it is a pleasure to talk to you. We have asked you here to play game we're calling...
KURTIS: Lift, Support but for the Love of God Please Don't Separate.
SAGAL: You are Jacques Pepin, famous chef. But what do you know about jockstraps?
PEPIN: Jacques who?
SAGAL: Jockstraps - famous undergarment. Jockstraps, we're going to ask you three questions about...
PEPIN: Oh, Jockstraps.
SAGAL: Jockstraps, you know what they call them in France - le strap de Jacques (ph).
SAGAL: Get two right...
PEPIN: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
SAGAL: Yeah, he's got it. Get two of these questions right and you will win our prize for one of our listeners. Bill, who is chef Jacques Pepin playing for?
KURTIS: Marcela Marin of Los Angeles, Calif.
SAGAL: All right, here we go, chef, your first question. Now, the jockstrap as we know it was first developed and sold back in 1874 specifically for what purpose? Was it A - to provide support and comfort for men wearing Turkish pantaloons, which were the rage at that time...
SAGAL: ...B - for racing-horse jockeys, right, to provide protection and stability because it actually was strapped to the saddle, or C - for, quote, "bicycle jockeys," riding on the bumpy cobblestone streets of Boston.
PEPIN: I would say that it would be the Boston jockey - I've been to Boston.
SAGAL: Right, and the roads are terrible. You're right, chef.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: It was, in fact, the bicycle jockeys.
PEPIN: Is that?
SAGAL: Yeah. I mean, apparently, there were enough people riding bicycles in Boston and complaining that this company started making these straps for them. And that is why - this is true - the company that invented the jockstrap and still sells the most of them is called Bike.
PEPIN: Believe me, I know my jockstraps.
SAGAL: This sort of thing never came up during those years with Julia Child, did it?
SAGAL: Next question, chef. Next question - once the jockstrap was invented, competitors decided to improve it. Which of these was invented in the early 20th century? Was it A- the cast-iron jockstrap, B - the electric jockstrap or C - the opium-infused jockstrap.
PEPIN: Oh, wow, wow, wow, - I think I would...
PEPIN: I would go for the opium one.
SAGAL: The opium one - that would be fun, but it was, in fact, the electric jockstrap.
SAGAL: Electric, yes.
PEPIN: That's not fair to us.
SAGAL: I know it comes as a shock, but yes, it was...
SAGAL: It's called the Heidelberg Electric Belt. It was supposed to cure insomnia, erectile dysfunction and other problems via electricity through the jock. All right...
CASE: That is messed up.
SAGAL: That is messed up, but no...
BURBANK: Eventually you'd pass out from the pain, and I guess that is a cure for insomnia.
SAGAL: I guess so.
PEPIN: Yeah, right.
SAGAL: Last question - now, as you know, chef, progress moves ever forward. And as compression pants have become more popular in the athletic world, jockstraps have to keep up. One inventor recently came up with which of these? A - the bulletproof jockstrap, B - the Internet-enabled jockstrap or C - the combination gun jockstrap.
PEPIN: I would say the first one.
SAGAL: The bulletproof jockstrap?
PEPIN: Yeah, yes.
SAGAL: You are correct, chef, that is right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL, APPLAUSE)
SAGAL: Well, if you think about, you know, your standard body armor has a little - you know, there's exposure down below. So...
SAGAL: ...This guy has invented a bulletproof jockstrap. And you can see him demonstrate to its use in an incredibly horrifying video.
SAGAL: Bill, how did chef Jacques Pepin do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Two out of 3, the chef knows what he's doing.
SAGAL: Jacques Pepin is an award-winning chef and TV host. His new book "Jacques Pepin Heart & Soul In The Kitchen" is out now, along with a new version of his fabulous memoir "The Apprentice." Jacques Pepin, thank you so much for talking with us.
PEPIN: Thank you.
SAGAL: What a pleasure, sir.
SAGAL: Thank you, chef, bye-bye.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOOD FOR THOT”)
DR. JOHN: (Singing) A little food for thought, food for thought.
SAGAL: When we come back, enjoy a tasty snack of Ramen noodles, and we put Chance the Rapper in front of a crowd. We'll be back in a minute with more WAIT WAIT DON'T TELL ME from NPR.