I am a person who truly believes in signs. So that being said, today has been the most interesting and inspiring day! The chain of events which brings me to this reflection begins with me securing an internship this morning at a bar and restaurant that just opened in Brooklyn. More on that later but this was only the first of many great happenings in the day. From my interview I happily bounced through the streets of union square, dancing and lip synching to feel good tunes as I made my way towards school. And then I saw her. I watched an extremely tan woman get out of a car on the corner of the street I was standing on. I glanced her direction for only a moment as she walked towards me and contemplated how she curiously resembled Rachel Ray. You know Rachel Ray? She is a wonderful woman, a self-proclaimed cook, not a chef. What she meant by this was that she got her training from experience rather than at a culinary school learning specific technique. I have always greatly admired her for becoming so successful without having formal training. I looked up to her since I was a very little girl and I really identified with her. Her hometown was in upstate New York, the same area I have grown up visiting with my family. She is also incredibly loud and expressive, which I always identified with. Her and I are both story-tellers. While some people criticize her expressive story-telling, I find it endearing. Who wouldn’t want to know background information? Food is identity and I loved that she told her viewers why the foods she prepared were special to her. I thought her first Food Network show, 30 Minute Meals, was not only extremely entertaining but also appealing to the masses because of how much she simplifies cooking. I watched her on TV all through my childhood and dreamed of how I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. I even wrote a college application essay on how I would choose her if I could dine out with any New Yorker, alive or dead. The way I saw it, Rachel Ray came from a similar background to me and had similar training, so if she could succeed then I could too. I dreamed of one day having my own cooking show.
Within a split second of thinking how the woman on the corner looked like Rachel Ray, all of those thoughts went through my head. I remembered my ambitions and briefly thought about how crazy it was that I really did act on making my dreams a reality. I mean, here I was, walking through New York City on my way to food studies courses after having secured a marketing internship at a restaurant! However, I must say that my revelation was interrupted by my second glance at the woman who was now walking alongside me, at which point I noticed that I was indeed standing right next to Rachel Ray. I cannot begin to describe how difficult it was for me to hold my reaction inside myself instead of literally exploding right there on 13th street and 6th avenue. My biggest regret in my entire life occurred today when I thought better of speaking to her. I sought out eye contact and was about to open my mouth when I noticed a glimmer in her eyes. It was as though she was requesting privacy with a glance that stated: “yes, you recognize me but please let me continue on with my life.” I said nothing and instead proceeded to call my Mom the moment we parted ways. Regardless of whether or not I spilled my soul, told her of the impact she has had on my life’s decisions, how much I adore her and how I had dreamed and even written about the moment I would meet her, I wish I had at least said hello. I will have to content myself with the thought that it is only her loss that she will not have the happiness of knowing how much she has affected someone’s life.
Anyways, immediately following this encounter I proceeded to go to my Intro to Food Studies class. I decided to hold in the last few minutes of my life as a secret. This resolve lasted for about ten minutes and ended abruptly when my professor pulled up a large photo of Rachel Ray on the projector screen. Coincidence? I immediately raised my hand and shared my excitement with the class. The reason my professor had brought up Rachel Ray was because we spent a portion of the class analyzing the historical development and popularization of cooking on television. More coincidences? I had only just been thinking about my own ambitions to have a food show. The discussion was so interesting! We went through the decades and talked about each person who played a pivotal role in the popularization of cooking as entertainment. We eventually began to discuss about how and why there is a dearth of nutritional information on these television shows. By the time we were talking about how there are no shows with a focus on healthy living, I was in a full-fledged (internal) panic. There was just way too many coincidences in my day.
While many people in this food studies course had only just realized that nutrition is an avoided topic on food TV, I have been aware all along. In fact, the class was unknowingly outlining my pitch right then and there. I have had my ideas ready for quite some time. People need a show to watch that teaches them how healthy food can be delicious! Not only that, but people need to learn how to truly cook. Even though every food television show claims to have its own hook, they are all extremely similar in that they consist of a person standing in front of a camera, teaching an audience how to prepare a specific recipe. It’s all well and good to show someone how to make honey glazed ham with herb roasted potatoes, but it has not actually taught anything. People who watch cooking shows will forever be slaves to cookbooks and measuring tools, unable to harness the creativity of their minds in conjunction with the cravings of their taste buds. What people need is someone to show them how to cook! Instead of, “this is my recipe for honey glazed ham”, people should learn “this is how you make a glaze for meat”. Instead of “this is how I make herb roasted potatoes”, it should be “this is how you roast vegetables, these are the vegetables that are perfect for roasting and these are the herbs that bring out the right flavors”. I want to be the person to teach a nation how to cook! Everyone can cook, and nobody should have to rely on books and measurements. Everyone possesses the skills necessary to cook. You need brain power to think about what you want to eat, taste buds to recognize what flavors you like, and the creativity to recreate the food you envision and taste using what you have available. Everyone knows that they like to eat, all they need to learn is the specific techniques to make it happen. I want to be the person who stands in front of a camera at a farmer’s market telling an audience that the natural harvest time of asparagus is in the spring, that you can prepare it using x y and z methods, and these other flavors compliment the vegetable. So on and so forth.
I want to teach people the following:
- Methods and techniques of cooking (e.g. this is how you broil, this is how you roast, this is how you chop)
- Basic ideas on how to cook (e.g. this is how you make a sauce, this is how you make a soup, this is how to make gravy thick)
- What flavors go well with one another ( everyone knows what foods and flavors they like, if they know which foods go well together people can create endless combinations by mixing foods they like)
- Health and nutritional education
- Natural growing periods when the freshest and most flavorful versions of each food are available (and all of the things you can do with each of those foods)
- How to fix cooking mistakes (too bland? Add this. Too salty? Here is this trick)
I want to have an interactive show where I get out and educate people. I want to banish the days of recipes and utensils by helping people realize that cooking is fun and experimental! Cooking does not need to be exact and it is much more fun to create a completely unique dish by using the random ingredients and tools you have available to you, taste testing as you go. I swear it can be done, even though it has not been done before. And I better be the person to do it. I want to use a television set as my soap box and change the way people view, prepare and taste food.
I have dreams. I have ambition. I have passion. And I have perseverance.
I also believe in signs. Could it be a coincidence that so many related events occurred within one hour? Or was this something bigger?