It all began when I was about 10 years old. Whenever my parents and I visited my avó and avô (that’s Portuguese for grandmother and grandfather) and the rest of the Leite family in Somerville, MA, I’d gather my ensemble of cousins for the express purpose of staging musical spectaculars on my Aunt Irene’s back porch. I was the director, naturally, and my word was law. (Oh, how little things have changed, I can hear Renee thinking.) [Editor’s Note: Yup. Precisely.] One show in particular featured an all-Beatles lineup in which I directed my distant cousin Elaine to slowly walk down the porch stairs as she sang “Let It Be.” (This was also the era of Cher, hence the many long, slow stair descents and excessive hair flipping in my directives.) I made her do this over and over again until, frustrated, I climbed to the top of the stairs and did my own descent. Never was a David Leite spectacular more spectacular.
A little later, I discovered The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. How many times did I dream that I was the seventh Brady kid (in between Greg and Peter) and had my own solo in the finale of each show? And how can I express to you just how achingly desperate I was to have one of those synthetic, powder blue jumpsuits?
Yet even with ambition fierce enough to make Eve Harrington pee herself—as well as serious acting training at Carnegie Mellon University—stardom never found me. The closest I ever came to fame? Playing a zombie in George Romero’s “Day of the Dead.” (I wasn’t even the kind of zombie that exploded in glorious gushes of blood. No, I was just an extra’s extra, in the back row, crying quietly.)
Through it all, though, I repeatedly heard, “You have such a great voice. You should consider radio.” (Well, okay, not on the zombie set. All I did there was groan.) But radio? Motion picture’s poorest relation? I’d rather have a 9 to 5 office job than do radio.
Ah, be careful what you wish for, children. Eighteen years of soul-sucking, fluorescent-lit servitude followed.
Now, older, wiser, and fatter, I realize that radio and its equally distinguished cousin, the podcast, are more than worthy of my time. But it’s not the lure of fame that elbowed me to create our new podcast, Talking with My Mouth Full, but rather it’s my desire to be of service to you. (Oh, hell, who am I kidding? I still fantasize that someday a casting director will hear me and stand, fist raised to the sky à la Scarlett O’Hara, and shout, “I’ve found my star!”)
Until then I’m all yours. Heart and soul.
Most kidding aside, though, the reason Renee, my editor-in-chief, and I created this podcast was to bring to life the writers whose words grace our pages, the cookbook authors whose recipes you desire, and the LC staffers who may not be familiar to you but whose fingerprints are all over every post. We also wanted you to hear from our beloveds–those folks who populate our lives and our stories, including The One (Who Brings Me Love, Joy, and Happiness), Momma Leite (my mother, who else?), E (the love of Renee’s life), and, wait for it, you. Yup, we’re inviting you, our dear readers, on the show as our guests. What’s that? You don’t have a blog or cookbook? No Food Network show or line of cookware? Like we care. If you possess a kick-ass lasagne recipe (I personally prefer béchamel, just like Giuliano Hazan’s recipe), wield an unorthodox way of making mashed potatoes (I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for mashed potato recipes), or regularly debate whether or not nuts belong in chocolate chip cookies (they don’t) [Editor’s Note: Oh, brother], we want to hear from you. Just email Renee at email@example.com.
Lest you think we went all DIY and locked ourselves and a digital recorder in a closet (I’m through with closets, but that’s another post), think again. We reached out to my mentor Sally Swift, managing producer over at The Splendid Table, who recommended producer and impresario Tom Voegeli (pronounced “vaguely,” but trust me, he’s anything but). Tom was one of the creators of The Splendid Table, so we knew we were in capable hands.
That’s when our education began and the meetings, calls, texts, emails, and faxes commenced. I feel like I’ve graduated from what amounted to a crash course in radio production after working with Tom. For my previous podcast, Authors’ Answers, everything was a no-brainer. I stuck a microphone in front of a writer and we talked. This was a brave new world. Suddenly I had to share the mike (egads!) with my lovely and talented co-host, Renee. We had to find a rhythm and get used to each other. [Editor’s Note: What he really means is find ways to politely and diplomatically disagree.] Add to that musical snippets, multiple guests, ISDN lines to London and other far-flung places, loooong days locked in a recording studio with takes and retakes and more retakes, and enough four-letter words flying out of my mouth to make the rap world proud. Stardom doesn’t come easily, folks.
Yet under Tom’s careful watch, enough material came together for a couple of podcasts, and after several rounds of edits, we ended up with what’s before you, our first ever, our debut, our launch, our world premiere, with the second podcast to follow in just a few weeks. Renee and I are a little nervous, as you can imagine. And we’re more than a little desperate for you to let us know what you think. Just please be gentle…after all, we’re virgins.