This week, many of us will be heading into the kitchen to prepare a meal for our families and friends. I myself am no great chef, but every year around Thanksgiving I’m reminded of the time I worked for one. The following excerpt is from my book Never Quote The Weather to A Sea Lion… (available for purchase here).
In 1963, barely out of Dartmouth College, I’d been hired as floor manager for a little cooking show aired by Boston education channel WGBH. The show was called The French Chef, and the chef, of course, was Julia Child. Julia was an imposing figure. At six feet two inches, she was taller than I was, but it was her passion that wowed me. She loved the food that she’d discovered in Europe and wanted all of America to share her discovery.
On my first day I was naturally nervous but resolved not to let her see it. That was no easy task, as I was positioned twelve feet in front of her. During that first taping, I heard the voice of Russ Morash, our director, loudly through my headset: “Tell her she’s sweating, Paul.” I quickly thought about the various ways of putting this tricky, personal, potentially embarrassing matter to her; then I wrote one word on a large paper pad and held it up for her to see: PERS-PIR-A-TION. A moment later she casually mopped her brow with a dishcloth, and I thought to myself, Whew, I got that right.
As the show ended, I counted her down with my fingers: 5 …4 …3 …2 …out. She was laughing and happy. The show worked; the food looked great. She walked up to me, engulfed me in that large frame with a hug, and said with a laugh in her voice. “Paul, where I come from, they call it a sweat!”
Folks, when you’re in the kitchen tomorrow, and you’re afraid the turkey’s too well done, or Grandma won’t be impressed with your take on her famous sweet potato casserole, my advice is: don’t sweat it! Just be grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by loved ones. And remember, if you find yourself acting a little stir-crazy, you could always gather up all your visiting relatives and bring them to the circus! Happy Thanksgiving!