Monday, August 13, 2012

It's All About Food

Everyone who had a backyard in the Greenbush area also had their own highly prized vegetable garden.   Like hiding money in mattresses, the owners of these gardens saw farming their own vegetables not as a strenuous hobby but as Pavlovian survival technique...a victory garden for the soul. Understanding how to till the earth had kept these old coots alive through mass famines and wars in Europe or the wreck that was the Great Depression. G & S Grocery was just down the street and that was good for cheese, bread, and milk, but for squash and rhubarb, tomatoes, carrots, and corn, the yield of their backyards would do just fine. The allure of stealing the crops of others without getting caught made me the ex network executive I am today.

My mother who survived the London Blitz had her own backyard garden. I did so much digging and weeding during my summers that I instinctively began singing "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" and "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow," at the supper table. My father would join in with "Tumbalalaika" which sort of defeated the point. To this day I can't get the lyrics of "Ole Man River" out of my head.

I love most food and should never go to waste unless thrown at politicians. My mother would say, "Finish what is on your plate Greenbushboy. At this very moment Albanian children are starving." I'm an American. To this day I have no idea where Albania is. Why eating my cauliflower or squash would make life any better for starving Albanian children still escapes me.

I govern my waistline by the Hobbesian philosophy that bakeries and vending machines have absolute authority over common sense and the threat of diabetes. I was so chunky as a Greenbush child that once I began rolling down Mound Street, no one had a prayer of catching me and forcing me to return their paper bag lunches. During the school year, I spent so much time in the afternoon  rummaging through the slop containers of that day's school cafeteria left overs, most onlookers thought I was some fat desperate homeless guy or the school principal. It was at these moments, surrounded by half eaten desserts, that thoughts of starving Albanian children came to mind.

I did have pabulum priorities at Central High. I never once ate any salads or the daily mystery meats served to us by the Waupan inmates hired as school chefs. No food ever went wasted in my world including meats of speculative origins. I would feed them to the Greenbush rats to keep their population in check (sorry PETA). By the time I was a high school senior, I had so many chins I gave many of them away to British college kids studying at the University.Technically I had skin in the game even before I went off to college.

As I got older, my social skills improved markedly around food. No more dumpster diving for me. I would politely ask my dates if they planned on finishing their main course as soon as the dish arrived. Most were happy to oblige as sudden commitments arose leaving me alone at the table. I always thought women washed their hair before a date. I had had enough therapy over the years not to publicly lick my plates clean, though like stealing produce from other people's gardens, it was a tough habit to break. In grade school I was called Lassie because of all my plate licking. This really embarrassed me as Lassie was female.

 Chef Carson Gully
One of my favorite weekly shows, growing up in Madison in the 50s, featured  Chef Carson Gully. He was the head chef for the University for years, and I marveled at what he could do with meats and eggs and vegetables. Madison repaid his loyalty and dedication with zoning laws prohibiting him from purchasing a house within the incorporated areas of the city.

Carson Gully had me dreaming of becoming a chef. Never truly discovering how to turn on a stove without blowing up the neighborhood, I gave up all thoughts of culinary expertise and simply went with eating what was put in front of me. My kitchen skills have not improved much over the years. I can turn on a blender, but then what?

I'm not sure whether IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD was written before or after BROADCAST 101, but they are close first cousins. I'm certain someone read one version and gave me notes which evolved into the other. There are changes, just not sure about the sequence.

All live action shows in my universe take place in a Vermont town called Squires Corners. I don't know why. Characters in live action children's programs follow some simple rules: kids are the protagonists, parents are clueless as road apples, adults run around flustered as if their hair is on fire, teachers walk around dazed and confused, and bullies are as dumb as a sack of nails. Regardless, IT'S ALL ABOUT FOOD was written years before the current craze of iron chefs and those crazy characters jumping up and down in rage that someone would have the audacity to spread mascarpone rather than Swiss meringue over a red velvet cupcake.

Well now this is interesting. I just lost my entire concept. I thought I was doing a cut and paste. It now looks as if I performed a search and destroy. IT'S ALL ABOUT FOOD currently has an APB out for it. Of course I never back any files up that are 20 years old. I just find them from old flash drives and move them over to my current computer as a cut and paste rather than a copy and paste.

Until I find it, I can tell you it involves the rivalry between a brother and a sister in a high school for chefs (the school teaches other things like math and driver ed). The original title was The Hatfields and the McCoys go to Cooking School. As part of the package, there were food fights, anger management sessions for teachers, a CGI created jackolope, a 6'9" gym teacher that yodels, children walking around the set covered with food, a reputed ghost in the rafters, a New York City food critic that steals recipes for apple crumble pie, kids who projectile vomited (off camera) and helium balloons filled with deviled eggs. Maybe I should let this idea remain "disappeared." The idea of helium balloons filled with deviled eggs sounds very unappealing.