The Mayor’s Wisdom: Food is Joy
Episode 4 was special and uplifting, from nailing the selfie video, to rockin’ the Rrrrrreeses commercial and more sensationally, singing “Ithaca!” loud and clear through the screen, not once but twice…perhaps thrice? But the gold in this episode’s airing was off-screen, and like all the best moments in life, it was captured in our hearts and memories for our own editing and keeping.
On Friday afternoon a car-toting trailer slammed through Simeons, a happy hour mainstay on the corner of Ithaca’s Downtown Commons. We lost a beautiful member of our community, Amanda, and a wave of grief fell over the city. We were reminded that life is short and there is little sense in dwelling on regret or dreaming without action. This was an important lesson for me, as I have been awash (with what now feels like senseless) anxiety over the risk in “putting myself out there” on a reality TV competition. This was a wake up call that it is ok to let go of control as long as I am confident in my integrity, loving and compassionate in my actions and centered in my intentions. It just isn’t worth losing sleep for the small stuff, and for me, this is about the bigger picture.
When nearly a hundred friends, acquaintances and new faces filled the theater at Cinemapolis on Sunday evening, with our inspiring Mayor – Svante Myrick – in attendance, I could not have anticipated his poignant observation at the end of the screening. He said, “after a very hard, heavy weekend, thank you for bringing the community together to laugh and rediscover joy through food.” Brett Bossard, the Executive Director of Cinemapolis, is truly the one to be thanked for opening the doors and printing “Food Network Star” on the ticket stub.
And boy oh boy was Sunday evening quite the communal fit of laughter. The cinema was rumbling with high fives, squeals of delight, “ooooo’s” and “aaaahhhh’s” and HOORAH! There was an audible sigh of release and relief to be celebrating something so deeply rooted in our community and in our wellbeing: a way of life built around healthy food and farming.
Kellie Meyer, a reporter from WENY TV News, wins the star challenge in my books with her beautifully told story about Sunday’s screening.
Hear the roar, mine louder than any.
Watching together reminds me that the mention of “Ithaca” on the Food Network far outweighs the judges’ critique of my food or facial expressions. Right now, I am poking a hole through the screen and inviting you – the viewer – into the Finger Lakes, so that I might have the chance to introduce you to the people and places that have inspired me in my kitchen. I continue to feel honored and elated to share Food Network Star with such a diverse and supportive community. As Phish so aptly put, “we’re all in this together, drinking bathtub gin” (that is, Finger Lakes Distillery Seneca Drums Gin!).
Thank you Mayor Myrick, for joining us and moderating a lively Q&A. You are genuine, eloquent and witty, and anyone applying for Food Network Star should learn from a pro like you first! 🙂
Everyone’s a Star
Someone asked me at the screening, “who was the meanest person behind camera?” Let me backtrack. I won the “selfie” video challenge, giving me an “advantage” in the YouTube challenge. Of course, anyone who knows me is well aware that picking teams is not my forte, plus quite the disadvantage when someone’s going home. I was an avid soccer and lacrosse player, and love a good tussle on the field. But I’ve become more competitive in solitary practice, like yoga or rock climbing.
I thought, “well can’t I just go eenie meenie miny moe … or 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 and then fall into teams by number?” But knowing that wouldn’t fly for the judges, I did what I was “supposed to do.” I picked teams. I didn’t exclude anyone because I thought they were mean. Everyone was insanely talented, even under copious pressure. Sure, tensions arise with the heat, but mean? Nah.
I picked Nicole because, from farmers markets to music festivals, this gal’s a kindred friend inside and outside the kitchen. I knew we would have a sense of ease creating an awesome idea and making it happen. Plus, she glows on camera. I picked Reuben because I was over-the-moon getting to speak in Spanish on and off set, and his energy is infectious. I spent four years living in Ecuador and Nicaragua, and hadn’t expected to rekindle my Latin flair on Food Network Star. Reuben always helped me settle into my comfort zone and remind me who I was: a first-generation American with wonderfully muddled roots and a lust for travel.
One of the core messages we wanted to convey in our commercial was that “Everyone is a star!” I spent the better part of our preparation using a pencil to carve stars into our Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, and I was damn proud of my doodles.
Honestly, though I know there was zero cooking involved on this episode, it was one of the most fun days of filming! Nicole, Reuben and I were crying with laughter while preparing our skit: real, tear-jerking, deep belly laughter. It felt good! You can catch me stifling a giggle fit on the final take.
Representing Reeses, and Food with Roots
Another great question from the audience on Sunday was “how do you feel about representing Reeses candy considering your point of view on food?” Great question! You might remember I was the farm-to-table girl in Episode 1, which I prefer to call “food with roots” or heck, table-to-farm. Either way, I’m into ingredients that tell a story about land and culture. But I’m no purist, and I’ll be the first to admit that Reeses is the candy I conquer on road trips, and copious amounts of Reeses Pieces find their way into my trail mix on burly backpacking trips. We all have fond memories of melting Jolly Ranchers and wrapping them around Blow Pops and pouring Butterfinger crumbles into our mouths. But truth be told, if I could track the rich stories that built Reeses’ and continue to make it roll with a capital R, then I’d be even more inclined to keep the candy stocked at home. For now, if I were going to make a habit of eating as many Reeses as I did on set (total count circa ten?), I’d probably be inclined to make my own. And of course, with any candy, it’s all about moderation (though my sweet tooth sure as hell puts up a good fight!).
The winning line from the judges? “Emma is the kind of person we would want sitting next to our product.” Patagonia, Prana … can we talk, please?
Next Up? Well, it’s hard to imagine a more energizing peak. This was the Emmasode it seems, and I can only hope to carry forward with such stamina and grace! Tune in, and root for me – you know I’ll be putting my best foot forward in the race!
While in suspense, enjoy these links!