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Ready for Our Close-Up

March 19, 2010

I am shy. Awfully, awfully shy. You might know me but not know this. In that case, it’s because you’ve never been there when my shy buttons get pushed. If you know only the “me” who chats up a storm, seems to have something to say about everything, and a smile splashed across her lips pretty much all the time, then you just haven’t caught me in the right/ wrong conditions. Then, the shy comes out.

In grade five, my class had the special treat (read: hellish and required torture) of a visit to the local public television station, where we were cast in a variety of historical sketches and filmed one another acting out battles, land claim negotiations, and significant moments in Upper Canadian history. I froze like a stick and my voice shrank. I thought mostly of the sandwich and apple I had packed for lunch, the moment the clock would reach 2:45, and we would board the bus back to school.

It seemed I could not get away from the cameras, the script, and the scrutiny quickly enough, and though I was ten at the time and am now approaching 37, I can still hear my voice reciting the same line, over and over, while our teacher coached me to speak up, speak slower, speak faster, give it just one more (dozen) tries.

With all that fresh in my mind, despite the event being twenty-seven years stale, no one is more surprised than I, at my most recent project. On a whim, Z. and I applied to take part in a food-tv programme shooting this spring and airing late summer. With two days between receiving the application and the deadline for submissions, we zipped together a kicky little pitch, outlining dinner parties we’d previously attended, hosted, and heard about. We cobbled together a great idea for the ultimate dinner party (the whole point of the show), attached our headshot (taken by D. over coffee at 7:30 a.m.), assembled our submission and sent it off to the producer. And, immediately received a call-back…it seems the network people were charmed by our slightly silly photograph, our slightly disgusting dinner party idea, our definitely unusual writing style, and our potential to be the wild cards on what might otherwise be a rather dry show.

In preparation for our camera-test, we invited D. to join us for a practice dinner. He taped us getting tipsy and rolling pastry and boiling eggs just right. The evening is well-documented on Z.’s lovely blog Food and Passion, complete with the results of the baguette critiquing event we tacked on to the night.  Watching the video shot by D., we agreed we came off alright — I need to remember to stop flipping my hair out of my face, and Z. should try and smile a little more. She has such a wonderful smile and incredible laugh, it’s funny to think that all froze on camera. As for my hair, I knew that already; it’s light and long and engages me in a constant wrestling match. Never mind the cameras, I should probably jettison that habit in general!

The next hoop through which we had to jump was cooking lunch for the producer, on camera, while being questioned about our cooking and hostessing style, palates and appetites, cooking background and food-related histories, politics and opinions. My apartment is the size of a breadbox, nicknamed “Japan”, since each piece of furniture, cabinets, utensils and equipment and household devices serves more than one function. The wooden milkcrate houses dish towels, flips sideways to become a two-person coffee table  or surface for laying out a game of cards. The kitchen table has drop-leaves and slips out of sight, transforming into a cutting table, dining table, or place for my cat to perch. Unsure how this would appeal to strangers hired to suss out our cooking style and on-camera charm, I was nervous inviting them into my home, so Z. and I convened that morning at our local café, where we became inappropriately jacked on espresso and conversation veered to a “safer” topic: namely, the gentleman with whom she is smitten.

We agreed the biggest mistake we could make would be to try too hard, and to erase ourselves from the process. If we dropped something on the floor, tanked a special dish, said “awww fuck!” on camera…then it would simply be more true to life. This was hard. Even now, writing about the situation, I’m channelling the 1983 tv-station freak-out version of “me”, who chucks in large words, awkward phrases, and talks around the subject by showcasing the odd fringe details.

I should tell you about the rare, pale blue eggs we served hard-boiled with a sprinkle of pepper, the salad Z. invented from the tiniest carrots I’ve ever seen, the tart tatin with smoky cheese, shredded herbs and the small-batch butter I cut in to the pastry.

Instead of dwelling on my shy buttons and how the possibility of appearing in a television series punches them all with a heavy fist, I should tell you how we talked circles around even the tougher questions (“describe how you behave under competitive pressure”; “tell us about the last time you ate fast food”; “will you eat anything, or do you have rules? what are they?”). I should describe the fork-sieve-jug-spoon method Z. devised to squeeze Meyer lemons for iced tea. And, I should tell you about the walk I took in the sunshine later that afternoon, once the filming wrapped up, Z. headed home, and I passed the rest of the day in Nap Kingdom.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. foodandpassion permalink
    March 19, 2010 12:05 pm

    You executed the audition marvelously!
    No shy buttons anymore, maybe? Perhaps you’ve grown out of that.

    Lovely account of such a ridiculous and pleasurable few days on the quest to tv dinners. I do hope we get asked to do the show, and WIN!

    Next project in the works…. more to come for all you dedicated readers. I’m sure A. will give you an eloquent account of the process in due course.

    • welltailored permalink*
      March 19, 2010 12:07 pm

      Ohhhh trust me, the show format itself? Gives me the cold sweats just thinking about it! We will need at least a few more practice runs (complete with D. behind the camera) before the show is shot, to get me ready for talking to strangers, cooking in front of people I don’t know, moving through someone else’s kitchen, not sounding like I am 12, not getting anxious and clamming up and saying perhaps three words the entire evening, dealing with the public scrutiny of marketing on camera…etc.

      Deeeeeeeeeep cleansing breaths….phhhhoooooooooooo…and in…ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

      • foodandpassion permalink
        March 22, 2010 10:20 pm

        It’s going to be so much fun!
        But, that being said, we still haven’t been accepted yet, so no point in worrying! D. will be behind us all the way. I’ve got your back (and front, if you’re game) and M., K. and E. will be rooting for you from the sidelines I’m sure!
        Strangers are far less scary than people that you actually want to impress… you never have to see them again if you don’t want to, so let’s just give ‘er!
        Now about that location issue….

  2. Patrick permalink
    March 20, 2010 11:38 pm

    Great news! Maybe even worth me buying a TV. Deep breaths, and Watch out Oprah!

  3. March 23, 2010 4:22 pm

    Those blue eggs look divine.
    Good luck, you two! What a fun outcome of a morning pitch. The best thing I can dream up before noon is a shopping list. We need paper towels, right?

  4. Gus permalink
    March 25, 2010 3:50 pm

    Far too often I find myself humming “The shot was/heard round the world./Round the world/the shot was heard”. What a day that was!

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