PBS, Nostalgia, and Comfort Food

I got to see Levar Burton, the man who fronted Reading Rainbow, speak at the Fayetteville Public Library last night. He was funny, warm, and just as smart as I remember from watching the show as a kid. Unlike the typical Reading Rainbow audience, or at least the stated audience–kids in the summer who aren’t reading–, reading was never an issue for me.  I can’t even remember learning how to read; I just always could read. In fact, I remember my brother learning how to read and not quite understanding why the words on the page didn’t make sense to him. Despite my facility with reading and a voracious appetite for story–why else am I reading Sir Walter Scott’s Waverely for the first time in this overcrowded semester–, I watched Reading Rainbow. It justified my love for books. I had found my kind of people. Burton felt the same about both the show and his Star Trek experience, and the way he talked about his castmates, you could just tell they all greatly enjoyed working together. He also read his new children’s book to us, which was inexpressibly delightful.

This morning, one of the blogs I read, the New Potato, has an interview with Jacques Pepin. Now PBS was on in my house mostly for two reasons: British comedies and the cooking shows. As Toby says in The West Wing when CJ tries to raze him about watching cooking shows as a kid, “I watched Miss Julie Child.” I did too, and I watched Jacques Pepin and the Cajun chef who put so much hot sauce on everything that in retrospect, I’m not sure anything tasted like anything but hot sauce. My boyfriend and I were discussing cooking artichokes over the summer, and he had me watch a video of Pepin cutting and steam artichokes. It was delightful to know that we both had this connection, but also Pepin so clearly adored imparting his knowledge and explaining the preciseness of technique. In the interview he says: “To cook for someone is to please someone.” Now, this is in reference to customer or diner preferences, but I think it’s a larger concept tied back to the idea of loving cooking. When I cook for people, I want them to feel loved. Baking is my primary means of doing that, but even when I make the most basic dish in my repertoire, turkey chili, I want people to feel loved and pleased eating it. The above link is worth the whole read for his take on why to cook (love) and how to approach cooking (team work). Right now, I want his ideal food day: bed, croissant, coffee, champagne, caviar, more bed.

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