I have hemmed and hawed about commending to you Spain On the Road Again , or as someone quipped to me, Fatty, the Geezer, and the two Hotties. The program (which airs on KTCA Sundays at 6 p.m.) grew on me slowly, and now it's half through its thirteen-week run, and commend I shall because it really reinvents the TV cooking and travel genres while providing a truly in-depth look at the food and landscape of a nation most of us know a lot less well than France, England, or Italy.
The premise is truly mind-blowing: NYC super-chef and Italophile Mario Batali (who is nearly fluent in Spanish), New York Times food writer and cookbook author Mark Bittman (looking rather gaunt), actress Gwyneth Paltrow, and Spanish actress Claudia Bassols (one of the few women on Earth attractive enough to take my attention away from the food) travel across Spain in a spanking new Mercedes convertible eating the local food, seeing the sights, and quipping.
My wife was stopped short by the whole incongruity of it all--the two beautiful young actresses flirting the days away with the rotund, wild culinary genius and the cynical, aging food journalist. It's a man's world, eh? I mean, would Brad Pitt and Colin Firth have road tripped with the Two Fat Ladies? I'd traverse Spain with Batali and Bittman any day. (Batali, known, beyond his culinary genius, as a wild partier and raconteur, clearly must be a hoot to travel with.)
The show is also available for download from iTunes; the episodes you've missed, like everything on PBS, will likely be rebroadcast, unless secondary rights have been sold to cable. But it's worth the effort to seek out. I can't imagine how many rainy days this cast sat out because the sky is always azure, the scenery never less than grand, the food and wine enticing (Batali's knowledge of Spanish cuisine rivals his mastery of Italy's); this is hardly a Rick Steves take.
There is also a companion book, Spain A Culinary Road Trip , that I am hot to buy because I've spent little time in Spain, and, Mercedes or no, Claudia or no, when I do get back, there will be no better way to do it than on the trail of Fatty, the Geezer, and the two Hotties.