The interesting thing is I’ve been plotting this for 33 years.
When I was a junior in high school, we were going on a field trip to New York City. At that time I was gaga for anything NYC, partly because I grew up in a town with fewer than 10,000 residents—and that included cows, chicken, cats, dogs, and guinea pigs. And partly because I wanted to be an actor. Although I lived only 3 hours away by train, I had never been to the center of the universe, but I was dying to go. There were two options for the field trip: a tour of the United Nations (how boring) or a tour of the “Today Show” set. I knew where I was going. But on the morning of the trip, while the buses idled in front of the school, we waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually we were told the trip was off. (I think it had something to do with liability.) I went to chemistry class completely and utterly bereft.
I thought the stages of NBC were forever out of my reach.
Then last year I met Giuliano Hazan, teacher, cookbook author, and son of Marcella Hazan. We were at the Epicurean Classic in St. Joseph, MI, and after watching me do two demos, he told me I should be on the “Today Show.” Sure, I told myself. If my publisher couldn’t get me on the show, how can you? He gave me the name and contact information for Ms. Producer A., and I e-mailed her in August. Fast forward to November 17th. I got a message from her, after having given up any hope of being on the show. It took us all of ten minutes to decide what I’d cook: clams in a cataplana (amêijoas na cataplana). It’s flashy, easy, and fast. (I’ll post the recipe on the 22nd.)
Knowing I have only four minutes to make a dish that takes about a half-hour, I had to choreograph everything, breaking down each step. Clearly one cataplana, the clam-shaped cooking pot the dish is made in (think of a wok with another on top), wasn’t enough. I hard to order three more from Silampos, a company in Portugal.
Last week, The One played director, costume designer, set designer, and personal assistant. I practiced cooking the dish in front of him in real time—meaning the full 30-minute version—making believe I was chatting with Matt, Meredith, Ann, and Al. (Meredith and I had lots to say to each other because she’s also Portuguese, grew up about 15 miles away from me in New England, and her family is from an Azorean island, just like mine is.) On Wednesday I heard the great news that I’ll appear on the 9 to 10 a.m. hour and was told that Bianca Henry, one of the food stylists on the show who also happens to be half Portuguese, would be working with me.
I have a lot left to accomplish by next Monday. On the top of the list are: 1.) find something flattering to wear, 2.) practice cooking in TV time, in which I jump from cataplana to cataplana and get everything done in less than 4 minutes, 3.) get my hair cut and sideburns dyed (ah, vanity, thy name is David), and 4.) lose 60 pounds. (Anyone know where to get Spanx for men?)
Stay tuned right here, as I countdown the hours to my 33-year plan to get on national TV. Read Part II