I recently cooked on television for the very first time, and despite all my jitters, I ultimately enjoyed it. I was a special guest on a Thanksgiving episode of the show Healthy Food Happy You. Jorge Mera, the gracious producer, invited me to appear on the show several months before and helped me prepare in various ways by relaying the format of the show, helping me decide what dish to prepare, and even allowing me to suggest questions for the interview segment.
On the day of the taping, I arrived at the Fairfax Public Access station around 11 a.m. . Jorge showed me around the studio and into the production room, where I got a behind- -the-scenes glimpse. I met volunteers who had everything so under control that I immediately felt calmer. I had spent the evening before reviewing the benefits of the various ingredients I’d be using, and my biggest fear was that I’d forget them all once the cameras started rolling. Then, Jorge asked a magical question, “Do you have any thing else you’d like to appear on the teleprompter?”. Then, he showed me a computer and how to load information, and just like that, more of my fears were alleviated.
Soon after helping me transfer facts about dates and sweet potatoes to the teleprompter, the host Gina and I found ourselves in a conversation about the politics of food (on which I imagine I could write a whole volume of essays) namely the need to come up with diverse arguments for diverse communities on why (more of) a plant based diet is a lifestyle choice worth making. She and I shared viewpoints that broadened each others perspectives, views that found their way into the interview but not necessarily into the final, edited version of the show.
Then, Gina showed me the studio kitchen. It was neat, clean, and, somewhat sterile. Of course, I would have preferred cooking in my own kitchen where I put itunes on random, burn essential oils, measure directly out of sugar and flour canisters into mixing bowls and pots, act as a musician improvising dishes based on vibrations and intimate knowledge of herbs, spices, and textures. . .where I cook in bare feet or holey socks while talking on the phone or yelling at kids. But here on the show, I was dressed up, with nice shoes on, and each of the ingredients was measured into nice glass bowls on an otherwise empty kitchen island.
The first part of the show was me demonstrating how to make my vegan sweet potato pie. I chose to share this recipe because it is a more life-affirming rendition of one of my favorite traditional Thanksgiving desserts. Preparing it allowed me to present healthful substitutions and cooking techniques that can easily become part of a more plant based lifestyle. Most of all, this pie is easy to make and simply delicious.
The second part of the taping was the sit-down interview over the prepared sweet potato pie. Among other things, Gina and I discussed my personal vegan journey, substitutions that make a vegan lifestyle easy to maintain, and compelling arguments for becoming vegan. By 4 p.m., we’d completed the interview, put the studio kitchen back together, and swapped contact information.
A few weeks later, Jorge emailed the schedule for the airing of the show, which I couldn’t wait to share with family, friends and associates via facebook, twitter, email, texts, phone, etc. I’ve been too nervous to actually watch the show myself, but I get excited every time I hear, “guess who I saw cooking on T.V. this morning?”. . .”You looked great”. . . “You sounded like you knew what you were talking about.” Deep down I hope lots of people watch, like my childhood best friend whose head I would talk off while preparing meals before my parents got home, my 5th grade teacher from Woodstock, or some famous food editor, cookbook publisher, or executive from the Food Network. . . my students, sisters, and, most of all, my grandmother down in Memphis. When she sees the show, she’ll likely call me up and say something like, “Now what did you do to my sweet potato pie?” followed by something like, “Your mother would be so proud of you” and, with that, remind me where my vegan journey actually began.
See the blog post Vegan Sweet Potato Pie Recipe for more.