David welcomes Amy Traverso as the new co-host of the podcast Talking with My Mouth Full. Grab your earbuds and listen as they usher in season three together.
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David Leite: Hey, everybody. This is David Leite. And welcome back to what is, I guess it would be the third iteration of Talking With My Mouth Full, and that’s just proof that you can’t keep a good podcast down. And so we’re calling this season three, for lack of a better term, if you will. And while some things have changed around here, some things have stayed the same. I am still your beloved co-host, and Adam Clairmont of Overit Studios is still our engineer. But, Adam, some things have changed with you, right? There are some interesting things that have happened in your career.
Adam Clairmont: Oh, have they? Tell me?
David: Can I tell them, please? I really want to tell them.
Adam: I don’t think I could stop you. Go for it.
David: All right. Well, I guess it’s my podcast. You can’t!
Adam: That’s right.
David: Since we last got together, Adam has been attached to two, count them, TWO films that were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture. Nightmare Alley, which I enjoyed to a degree, and the winner of the 2022 Awards for Best Picture, CODA. Congratulations on that. We are not worthy, Adam. We are not worthy to be in the same room with you.
Adam: No, you are, you are.
David: And so congratulations on that, my friend.
Adam: Thank you.
David: But the real news, the news that trumps anything to do with the Academy Awards is I have–
Amy Traverso: Can anything trump an Academy Award?
David: You just heard, I have a new co-host! Now, our dear Renee Schettler has moved on to greener pastures, and we all wish her well in her newer endeavors. Renee, if you’re hearing this, thank you for all those years of sitting beside me on this podcast and being a great co-host. But anyway, my new co-host is the always lovely, the always charming, the always informative, may I have a drum roll, please. Amy Traverso!
David: Welcome! Welcome to this show, Amy.
Amy: The always perky Amy Traverso.
David: The always perky Amy. Yes, you are. And you’re always laughing. You have such an infectious laugh. Do you know that?
Amy: I’ve been told that I have a good laugh, and I have my mom’s laugh. So, I’m glad I have her laugh.
David: It’s a jolly laugh.
Amy: Oh God! Now I feel self-conscious about laughing.
David: For those six people who are listening who don’t know who you are–
David: … why don’t you tell our listeners a bit about yourself?
Amy: Well, hello, I’m Amy Traverso. I’ve been a food writer for a while now. And I think I have the best job in the world. I co-host a public television show that we produce with WGBH. It’s called Weekends with Yankee, and it’s a New England travel and lifestyle show. But the “Yankee” refers to my primary job, which is the best job. I’m the senior food editor at Yankee magazine, which some of you may know. We have a lot of readers actually outside of New England, but it is the kind of Bible-of-all-things-New-England. It’s been around for almost 90 years.
Amy: We cover everything from what’s new to nostalgia to travel to storytelling. So, that’s just really fun. I do recipe development, and I do storytelling. And then I wrote a cookbook called The Apple Lover’s Cookbook.
David: Which is a great cookbook, by the way.
Amy: It’s been a delight. It’s been a delight to work on it. It’s a very nerdy, deep dive into everything apple, from varieties to what to do with them to their history. And then lots of recipes.
David: Now, if Amy’s voice sounds familiar to some of you, it’s because she was actually a guest on this show. The last iteration where she talked all about clam shacks, fried clams, clam cakes, blueberry pie, all these classic, iconic New England foods. It was a great episode. Everybody loved it.
Amy: Yeah. It’s always fun. And we really enjoyed talking to each other and found it to be very natural.
David: We did. And that’s part of the reason that I turned to Amy when there was an available co-host seat, because we really had this rapport on the show. And we’re just talking over each other about everything New England and about food. And we love food. And I also was on… I always forget the name of that, your program that you had, that was only audio. It’s a social media platform.
Amy: Oh, no. Okay. Yeah. For a few months at the end of the… Well, at the end of the last wave of the pandemic, I don’t know where we are this time.
David: The last wave of the first pandemic. Yeah.
Amy: We were doing some Clubhouse sessions.
Amy: And you hopped on.
David: Yes. And that was fun.
Amy: That was fun for a couple months. And then everybody was like, “I’m done.”
David: Yeah, we’d had enough.
David: So, let me ask you, Amy, since you had been a guest on the show, and of course, I was on your Clubhouse or in your Clubhouse or part of your Clubhouse, and now you’re the co-host. Tell me, what was it that interested you in being part of the show?
Amy: I love radio and podcasts. I mean, I love listening to them. But I also love doing them. I have a regular slot on GBH Radio’s Callie Crossley Show. We talk about food. I’ve just always loved this medium. And I enjoy being with you so much. We’ve actually taped a segment for my show “Weekends with Yankee” together.
David: Yes, we did.
Amy: And every time we’ve gotten together, it’s just been [rapid fire] da, da, da, da. Just can’t stop talking. So, it just felt right.
David: And one of the amazing things, everyone, is when I was on her show, we shot, I think, six hours or something like that. Amy did the entire day without a script, which blows my mind. I have to have all of my notes, everything I’m saying in front of me. You just went the entire day talking to me, cooking with me, everything, no script. That blew my mind.
Amy: Well, I do have an outline in my head of kind of the talking points that I have to hit. And I write it down, and I reference it when we’re filming. But I do think that is one of the areas of my life where I do achieve mindfulness, where I’m so… Every place we go and in our case, we filmed in Fall River, Massachusetts.
David: Yes, we cooked Portuguese cuisine.
Amy: At the amazing. Yes.
David: Portugalia Marketplace. Amazing.
Amy: It’s like the Eataly for Portuguese.
David: Yes, it is.
Amy: It’s so good. And so being there was so exciting, and you just get caught up in it because it’s deeply interesting. And I actually want to know all the questions I’m asking. And so it’s being in that state of flow that’s harder to achieve in your day-to-day life when you’re doing laundry and juggling deadlines.
David: That’s fascinating what you just said, because I know when I travel, and The One and I are eating at all these different restaurants–like when I was writing for Bon Appétit magazine and other publications–there is that in-the-flow, in-the-moment, real-heightened-sensory experience. And it does feel very much like everything is shut out except what you’re doing.
David: That day when we shot at Portugalia, everything was alive inside of me. I was so excited. I mean, I wanted more screen time, but we’re not going to talk about that! It was really an amazing thing. So, I think you hit upon an important point that I hope we talk about in the future, that gustatory sensory heightenedness when we have great food or a great meal or we’re in a great restaurant.
Amy: Or in a new place.
David: That is an interesting, interesting point, Amy. So one point for you so far [bell dings]. We’re only 10 minutes into the podcast, so that’s excellent. So, what else made you want to… Oh, I don’t know. Come talk with me and be on the show and–
Amy: Well, I love listening to long-form podcasts and really good interviews. I like interviews that go a bit deeper and get into the real stuff of life that makes life feel important and meaningful. And so I felt like you were a kindred spirit in that pursuit, that if we were interviewing people, we would be asking not just about the kind of, “How did you get to where you are,” and, “What’s it like being a,” blah, blah, blah?
David: What foods do you like?
Amy: Yeah. But kind of what it all means. And so that’s my hope for what we’re going to do in the coming episodes. And we’ve got some really interesting people that we’re going to talk to.
David: We do. Should we mention it now? Or should we tease at the end?
Amy: Well, let’s go a little longer.
David: Okay. [To the listener] So, we’re going to tease you. So you have to listen to who’s going to be on the show, but you raise a, I think a very, a very good point here. One of the things that you wanted to talk about was how body image and food and sort of that social media-ized version of food is out there and how real or not real that is, which I think is fascinating. And I think it’s something that really does need a deep dive at some point. Very much.
Amy: I would love to spend some time on that because I think we ping wildly between food content that is very aspirational and pays absolutely no mind to the fact that food is a form of medicine in some ways, and definitely affects our bodies. We ping between that and toxic diet culture, which I’m working very hard to free myself from.
David: Yeah, me, too.
Amy: While also being mindful of my health. And it’s really hard to thread that needle. And food is a funny space to work in when you’re trying to thread that needle. And so I want to have a really good conversation about how do we not be completely oblivious to food and our health, without falling into the trap of diet culture and hating ourselves and all trying to fit into one body size and all of that good stuff.
David: Yeah. I think that’s a really, a really important thing to cover at some point with food and the world that we’re in. And also I think the social media-izing of food is…although I’m on social media all the time, I try and break it up with things of my cat, Graycie, or dumb things that The One has done and I’ve done. So, it’s not just this constant food porn. Because I don’t know what kind of message that eventually gives out. So, it’s something that I’m struggling with. So, you might hear us struggling on this show together, folks, as we talk about that.
Amy: Okay. David, one thing I love to hear from people, because I know your biography and I think a lot of your listeners know, but what’s your food biography? What are the food experiences that shaped who you are as a food person?
David: Very good. Point number two. Doing great, Amy [bell dings]! There are, I think, there are a lot. And of course, coming from a Portuguese family is the major one and being raised as a child in 1960s America. (Yes, folks, I am that old.) The nineteen sixties’ America was all bout these commercials on television for all this packaged food. And then I’m stuck having to eat kale soup, or purple octopus stew, or this roast chicken that’s smothered with all these other things, and fava beans, and things that I didn’t want to eat as a kid because I didn’t see the Brady Bunch eating them. I didn’t see the Partridge Family eating this food. So, I started out my early life hating being Portuguese. And then eventually when I was 32 or 33 years old, and my grandmother passed away, that’s when I really started embracing it. And then I realized how impactful being Portuguese was. And I look back on my childhood and I am so grateful for having those Sundays when you have 21 people at the table.
Amy: Yes. I… Yes.
David: And all those aunts, I write about this in my memoir, Notes On a Banana, a Memoir of Food. Love, and Manic Depression–[affects a radio announcer voice] available at your nearest bookstore–of how my aunts had their specialties. And they would crouch down beside you with the seams of their dress stretching over their thighs, as they really try to get you to eat their food over their sister’s food or over my mother’s food, because everyone’s proud of what they had and what they had to bring to the table. And so that was a very important building block for me and the notion of family and the notion of food as comfort. I think everyone has that to some degree. And of course, I have a weight issue. So I turn to food whenever I need comfort. But food was always that warm blanket that was wrapped around us and in the culture of Portuguese, and the Portuguese family makes it kind of a double-squared thing.
David: And then I think some of the other ones that are a little bit different was when I had a girlfriend in college, and yes, that’s in the book too. And that’s another story! Her mom just loved to dine out and she worked for a Broadway producer. So, we would go to all these incredible–
Amy: You found a girlfriend whose mother worked on Broadway?
David: Hello, Mr. Producer!! And I wanted to be an actor at that point. So it was perfect. And she would take us to these incredible restaurants. I had sweetbreads for the first time. I had foie gras for the first time. I had snails. I had quail, I had all this food, and my eyes just popped open to the fact that there is a different kind of cuisine because up to that point, it was always very homey. Portuguese food tends to be very peasant food, very, comida pobera, which means very rustic. And so that was another eyeopener. And of course, when I first traveled to Europe and Asia and also even to Russia, my eyes also popped open. So those are the three big things I would say. What about you? What are your influences in your food biography?
Amy: Well, like you, I grew up in a big ethnic family. I had the Italian-American version of that with the Sunday dinners, with 18 people around the table. I’m so grateful for those memories. I actually feel sad that my 13-year-old doesn’t. My 13-year-old has other… Kids of this generation have other memories, I think, of food that will be very dear, but we are definitely not providing the every-Sunday-at-grandma’s-house experience.
David: But your kid doesn’t have a lot of cousins, right?
Amy: No. Well, has about five cousins, but we live all over, and it’s modern life.
David: Yeah. I had 21 in the same town basically.
Amy: Right, exactly. But those memories, the wine at the table, the homemade pasta, and also the shame, the friends wrinkling their noses when they came over for dinner and we were serving pesto before pesto was cool. And it was like green spaghetti. “What are you weird people eating?” And also the American stuff, like my grandmother made her pesto with cream cheese instead of pignoli nuts because those are really expensive. And it was her modern American-woman thing. Like, “I’m modern. I’m not just this immigrant.” Like, “I can adapt. And so here’s my American version.” So, all of that’s super interesting.
Amy: And for me, as I was growing up, I was kind of always a questioner, and I was moving away from my Catholic upbringing but I loved my family so much. And I figured out that food was a way to keep them and our traditions alive, when I was leaving other ones. And so that’s kind of what made me want to be a food writer.
Amy: And then I lived in New Mexico for a couple of years, and the food culture there is amazing, opened my eyes. I lived in San Francisco for a couple of years and that sort of California cuisine thing is, I think, influences how I approach New England cuisine and moving to a city. I live in Boston and having the city lifestyle and all that access to flavors definitely shaped the way I see food. One of my missions is to really rewire how people perceive New England food. First of all, to kind of broaden, make the tent bigger of what is considered New England food, because it has been by definition, fairly exclusionary, but also to bring the fun back to New England food because we know it can be fun because–
David: It is fun, yes.
Amy: …we love lobster rolls and whoopie pies and fried clams.
David: We do. We do. That’s interesting you say that because when I wrote the article for the New York Times about the fried clam trail, and Pete Wells at that time was the editor of the dining section. He said to me, when we were talking about that article before I did it, he said, “We have Southern cuisine, we have Southwestern cuisine. We don’t really have a cuisine in New England.” And I was thinking, “What are you talking about?”
Amy: That is not true.
David: Exactly. And I don’t know if he comes from New England or not, but I’m like, “No, I think we do.”
Amy: Very much.
David: But I think part of it is it’s not spread or shared outside of New England a lot of times.
Amy: Yeah. I think it got a lot of bad press as the land of the beans and the cod. And it’s taking some time to move beyond that, but it’s definitely not true. And have you ever had a Boston knish?
David: No. And I heard you talk about this. What is a Boston knish? Do you k-now?
Amy: I k-now exactly! It contains all the yummy things, all the yummy smoked meats and mustard and it’s unique to Boston. And it came out of the delis, like the B & D Deli and all the old-time delis, and these are foods that are particularly unique to a place. It is a cuisine.
David: But what are the smoked meats inside this knish?
Amy: Okay. I had it at Michael’s Deli, and I know there’s like pastrami and corned beef. I would have to ask if there’s any other, but it’s so good.
David: Wow. That’s amazing.
Amy: Yeah. It’s like a deli encased in pastry that you get to eat.
David: It’s a pastry-encased deli. I like that. That’s fabulous.
David: Obviously, there’s a lot of rich things here to mine, and I hope that we do it more with each other and also with our guests. I think they’re going to be bringing a lot of stuff to the table that we don’t. We don’t. And so should we now reveal who some of the guests are?
David: All right. So the next guest or our first guest is going to be… Why don’t you introduce her? Because I met her through you.
Amy: Yeah. This is one of those people where I was like, “Yay, I’m doing a podcast.” So, now I have an excuse to meet her, because I’ve been sort of admiring her. Her name is Christine Tobin and she’s a food stylist who works in the movie business. So, you have seen her food if you most recently have been watching the HBO series, Julia.
David: Which is marvelous.
Amy: You’ve seen her work. If you’ve seen “Little Women,” you’ve seen her work. She’s trained as a fine artist. She went to art school and she figured out a way to combine her love of food and her love of art. And I’m so fascinated to hear how the sausage gets made, so to speak.
David: Yeah, yeah.
Amy: Yeah. How the Hollywood sausage gets made.
David: Because when I was looking at “Julia,” I went back and looked at all the episodes again, once I knew she was going to be on the show. There is a lot of food in some of those episodes.
Amy: It’s a lot. And it’s her style. It’s not… you know what I mean? Julia had a look to her food, and Christine really nailed it.
David: Yes, she did. Because that Queen of Sheba cake in the first episode, I mean, as soon as I saw that, when the episode was over, I went out, got the ingredients, and I made it. And it is delicious. Hers looked better than mine, but it was delicious. But the scene in Oslo where they do an overhead shot, and they just pan down the table and there was sole and there were all these different things. It was so packed. And then I thought those actors get to eat all of this food. Maybe it was sitting out for days and days, who knows?
Amy: Well, that’s true.
David: But I thought, wow, she’s really, there’s a lot of food in this.
David: It was amazing. So I am really looking forward to her. And of course, what would it be if we did not invite our dear beloved Dorie Greenspan on the show. We both love her.
Amy: I love her so much.
David: I know. And it’s interesting because–
Amy: But everybody loves her.
David: Yeah. And you had said a very interesting thing to me and I always remember that. You said, “It’s amazing this woman has a house in Connecticut, a place in New York, and a place in Paris. And yet no one feels envious of her because she’s so generous and wonderful.” Remember, you said that?
Amy: I don’t know how she does it. She’s living the lifestyle that all of us would dream of. But she is so genuine and humble and warm and generous that you cannot feel envy or resentment. You just feel joy because of her joy, she telegraphs that out into the world and you catch it and you’re like, “This is so great.” Whereas I admit I’m perfectly capable of being a jealous little jerk, when some people have what I would love to have–
David: Dammit, I want that.
Amy: I never feel that way. Yeah.
David: Yeah. So on “Weekends with Yankee,” she was on as a guest. What did you guys make? It was a cake. I know that.
Amy: Yeah. It was a beautiful parsnip cake.
David: That’s right.
Amy: So, if you imagine a carrot cake but made with parsnips and with sugared cranberries and this wonderful cream cheese frosting and it was lovely and very holiday. It was such a thrill to be cooking with her in her kitchen. It was amazing.
David: You looked like you were having a blast.
Amy: I was loving every second, just absorbing and my head being like, “Okay, when can I come back here?” Like, “Hmm. What would be a premise for me to spend more time with Dorie?”
David: It’s trying to wriggle your way back into the house and using this show or the magazine as an excuse, right?
Amy: It really sounds like I’m having some stalker energy.
David: Yeah. A little?
Amy: And I don’t want to do that because I have to just play it cool. I have to play it cool when I’m with her. Meanwhile, one very cool person that we’re going to have on is Dan Souza who’s the editor-in-chief of “Cooks Illustrated” magazine. He’s not just a great editor.
David: What’s Eating Dan?
Amy: What’s Eating Dan? Those are so good.
David: Yeah. Do you know that was nominated for a Webby Award?
Amy: Wow. I’m not… I mean, he is–
David: He’s wonderful.
Amy: It’s a great series. Yeah.
David: I love him.
Amy: He’s terrific.
David: And then also Kenji Lopez-Alt. Of course, everyone knows Kenji. He’ll be coming on talking about his book The Wok and wok cooking, which will be a lot of fun.
Amy: And we also want to bring you weekly food finds. Things we ate. Things we discovered. Trends.
David: Things we cooked.
Amy: Yes. Books we read. Shows we watched. For example, I just watched, finally watched “Fantastic Fungi.” I thought it was incredible on Netflix. It’s been out for a little while, but wow. You have to watch that.
David: And that’s about mushrooms. When she said, “I just watched Fantastic Fungi,” I thought she said it was a show by a “fantastic fun guy,” a guy who was fun.
Amy: It’s like set in a club. No, it’s amazing. And they do these incredible…if nothing else, the time-lapse photography of mushrooms emerging from the earth–
David: Is wonderful.
Amy: … totally worth watching.
David: And then we’re really going to be focusing on home cooks. That’s really where you are our audience. And that’s what we want to focus on. And of course, there’ll always be questions and answers. So, we really want to know your questions. What’s bugging you? What’s not working? Because then we can have you on the show and don’t you want to be a star? I do, certainly.
Amy: I’m ready for my close-up. So, please send us your questions. We really want to interact. We want this to be a two-way conversation.
David: Very much so.
Amy: Three-way. Is that three-way? Because we already have kind of the two-way.
David: I guess that is a menage a trois, yeah. We’re the two-way.
Amy: Yeah, menage a trois. We want this to be a menage a trois for you.
David: Exactly. We really do. And maybe even a group situation, if we get more than one person on the line at the same time.
David: So, Amy, I can’t thank you enough for joining me on the show, and thank you for joining me on this episode. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. And now where can we find you again for those people who want to know?
Amy: Well, you can read me in “Yankee” magazine. Can find me, I’m @AmyTraverso on all the social media platforms, but most excitingly, the current episode, season six of “Weekends with Yankee” is airing all over the country. Forty-nine states, everything except Hawaii, which is understandable. It’s a little far away, and you and I are on an episode this season.
David: I know.
Amy: So keep your eyes peeled. Check your local listings to find out when it’s airing near you.
David: This podcast was produced by Overit Studios and our producer is the Oscar adjacent, Adam Clairmont. You can reach Adam and Overit Studios at overitstudios.com. And remember to subscribe to Talking With My Mouth Full wherever you download your favorite podcasts. And if you like what you hear and want to support us, please leave a review and rating on Apple Podcast. The powers that be need to hear from you by subscribing. And that will keep the show-
David: … on the air. And if you’d like to leave Amy and me a recorded question or a compliment because we do love compliments, visit our podcast page at leit.es/chat. Press and talk away. And maybe you’ll be featured on the show. Ciao.
Amy: Thanks, everybody.
David: Oh, you got to get a better sign-off. “Thanks, everybody?”
Amy: I don’t know. I feel so self-conscious.
David: You really, I mean she had bon appetit. I have ciao. Thanks, everybody?
Amy: Okay. I’ve got to think about it. I know, it’s so vanilla.
David: And if you’d like to leave–
Amy: You feel, sorry?
David: I feel, what?
Amy: Do you feel like it’s not okay to ask for compliments?
David: Maybe. I think I have an issue with the attention.
Adam: I don’t think he feels that at all, actually!