I don’t like TV cooking programs – there I said it. When I meet new people and they figure out how much I love food, they automatically think I also love to watch the Food Network (or something similar). I have to say that I’m not a big fan.
It’s not because I think I know more (far from it!) or that I am above it all in some way or another – it’s just that the majority of them are either hokey, annoying, or so formulaic that their predictability is a little insulting – I mean how many times can you watch the guy on Hell’s Kitchen poke a hole in someone’s food and scream, “this is bleeping slop” I wouldn’t mind but he’s actually a great chef, but somehow, his ratings are better when he verbally insults people than when he cooks something amazing.
The contrived set where the kitchen is pristine and the cook even more sterile-looking does not feel like real life to me. And now we have trendy cooking talk shows like The Chew who boast exposing viewers to “smart and intelligent talk” of “food, life and fun”. Somehow I can’t help thinking of a Gravy Train (pun was most definitely intended)!
I am however a fan of cookbooks and, while Mario Batali on The Chew doesn’t remotely interest me, I have several of his cookbooks. He is a great writer and his love of Italian food and culture along with his recipes suck me right in.
The other thing I like to do is listen to the radio while driving. When my kids were young I would play those awful children’s songs in the car. I had to, it was the only thing that would lull the crying! When they fell asleep I would switch to something more intelligent, something that would stop my brain from turning to mush. I was desperate for some connection to the adult world as my world at that time consisted of book’s and movies with titles like My first ABC and Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends Have An Adventure.
I immersed myself in Public Radio stations and got my news, current affairs and culture throughout the day, but the weekends were the best. This is when my public radio station let their hair down with programs such as This American Life, A Prairie Home Companion, Radiolab and the cooking program which airs on Sundays, and the thing I want to talk about: The Splendid Table.
It turned out that most Sundays around noon I would find myself driving somewhere, to the supermarket for that big weekly shopping, to the movies with the kids, to a museum, a park, a day in a city etc and I invariably caught the voice of woman who literally crooned about food. I couldn’t decide if her voice was annoying or intoxicating, but after years of finding myself not reaching for the radio knob to turn the dial I would have to say it was the latter.
Radio voices are either compelling or repelling, and whether you listen to a program or not hinges on how this voice makes you feel when you are listening. A voice is like a book, where you have the glorious opportunity to use your own imagination to fill in the blanks. Like when someone says, “the movie was good, but I think the book was much better”. And all I have to say to that is “Bravo” to that person’s fine imagination and how the movie playing in their head was a superior version of the story!
The voices on the radio are exactly the same for me. I get to decide what kind of person this might be just by listening to them. Of course what they are saying is important too, but how they say it, the tone and their use of the language is what will keep me listening. The “voice” of the radio program The Splendid Table is the voice of Lynne Rossetto Kasper and when she talks about food she makes me feel like I am looking at a person eating something so delicious that they cannot help sort of humming through the entire dish. Well, Lynne Rossetto Kasper hums through her entire show, whether she is talking to a chef who is cooking a dish right beside her or when she is advising a caller on what to do with the boatloads of basil in their summer garden.
As she interviews and talks to these different people you can feel her total passion for the entire food world. She has the power to convince even me that eating a hotdog from a road-side stand in the middle of nowhere should be on my list of things to do before I die! It is the voice of love and the voice of love is a very powerful tincture. I’m sure she has won many a male listener (and hopefully turned them all into the kitchen!)
Now that my kids are older and have inherited my love of food, if we happen to catch The Splendid Table on Sundays while driving to the supermarket there is a very large chance (99%) that I will get a sidelong glance from my son in the passenger seat or a little tap on the shoulder from my daughter behind me when something is described by Ms. Rossetto Kasper with such reverie that I will be quietly begged to stick those ingredients on my shopping list.
As was the case a few weeks ago when she watched the chef Lucinda Scala Quinn make her mother’s recipe for meatloaf. I am really not a big fan of meatloaf, I suppose because I did not grow up eating this ubiquitous American dish, but her sultry voice won me over and I ended up making it to the utter delight of my children (who are now old enough to cook this themselves!).
As you can see by the pictures, it is mouth wateringly good-looking, but I am in no way qualified to really expound on how wonderful it is as the voice of The Splendid Table does a far better job than I could ever do, a job she has been doing now for 16 years.
I have never looked her up on the internet to put a face to the voice for the same reason I have no real desire to meet a celebrity or talk to a renowned writer: it would probably not match up to how I see them in my head, and don’t you find that they always seem smaller in real life! I’m being silly of course but the satisfaction I get from reading a book or watching a movie, and yes, listening to the voice of The Splendid Table is enough, is perfect in and of itself.
So, if you are pottering around your house this Sunday or driving along some lonely stretch of road, turn on the radio and find the voice of The Splendid Table. It will make you smile, make you hungry and most certainly decide that daily question of “What’s for dinner!”
*I did alter the recipe a little to suit me better. I added some fresh herbs just because they are in my garden at the moment and I added some hot pepper flakes for a little zing*
You will need:
2 lbs ground beef (use something with some fat content) OR mixture of ground lamb and beef
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I made them by whizzing a few slices of bread in my food processor)
1/3 plus 1 tbs milk (any %)
1 small onion, grated
1 medium carrot, grated
1 large egg
2 tsp sea-salt
several grinds black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)
2 tbs finely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
1 small sage leaf, finely chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp sriracha sauce (or other hot sauce)
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish (If you don’t have this, use 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet pickles)
Preheat oven 375*
1 – . Combine the breadcrumbs with the milk in a small bowl and let sit. Crack the egg into a large bowl and whisk for a moment with a fork. Add the meat followed by the herbs, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper flakes, onion, carrot and the soaked breadcrumbs. Mix it altogether with your hands until it is fully combined.
2 – Combine the Reservoir ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
3 – Place meat in a loaf pan and using your index and middle finger make 3 holes in the meatloaf, going almost to the bottom of the pan. Spoon the reservoir sauce into each hole reserving what is left over for later.
4 – Place in preheated oven for 55 minutes. Remove and let it rest on the stove-top or counter for 15 minutes before serving.
Serve this with whatever you like. It is traditionally served with mashed potatoes, gravy and a green vegetable but don’t let that stop you from serving it alone, with pasta, rice or even making it the star of a robust dinner sandwich!