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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Five Crazy Things, Cont'd - Me Edition

As the general editor of this series, I'd like to tell you maybe a couple of small anecdotes about myself (yes I get two, I'm the editor!), and post a pic too. :)

Like some of the others, I'll be talking mostly about other people. The personal stuff I sent around in our production meeting included my own fabulous thespian and athletic accomplishments from high school, but because they were so unbelievably awesome, I wouldn't want you to think I peaked in high school, so I'm changing gears. So here goes.

The first bit is that - as difficult as it might be for Traffick readers to believe - I have first cousins who are even smarter than I am, at least in raw scores of the sort that might get you places in a scientific field. Lesley McKarney has a PhD in something scientific, and Ian Leinert is in his first year at U of T, taking math, among other things. Their grandmother and mine, Isobel Shortreed, must be to blame genetically, having taught school at a one-room schoolhouse in southwestern Ontario. (My grandfather, the broad-shouldered Walter, might be part of it: I don't know, as he didn't talk much.) Actually the eldest two Shortreed daughters (my Mom, Jean, and Lesley's mom Anne) must have spent at least some time in one of those one-room schools before they modernized things. Walking uphill and through snowdrifts and against the wind, both ways. All the Shortreed girls attended the University of Western Ontario -- quite a rarity in any family, especially one from rural Ontario. I won't go into the part where, even after they were grown women, my mother and her sisters would have to walk a few blocks from the parents' in-town house (post retirement from farm) to do their grownup stuff like smoking.

But enough about my family. Currently, I'm reading The United States of Arugula by David Kamp, a meticulously-researched, gossip-laden tome about the rise of foodie culture in America. Whether you enjoy pop culture, like to eat, or are a Long Tail aficionado, this book is definitely worth your time. So anyway, I'm up to the late 1960's, to the part where Graham Kerr, a.k.a. The Galloping Gourmet, is bursting on the scene. What's surprising about the originating "food establishment," the wacky but eventually respectable group headed up by James Beard, Julia Child, and the New York Times' Craig Claiborne, is just how strange and unqualified they mostly were for their jobs... until life handed them the opportunity to learn as they went while becoming celebrities in the process. When British-born Kerr bursts on the scene and tries to do the same thing, the establishment quickly closes ranks. They claim that he's just a showman - cares nothing for food. As Kamp points out in these pages, Kerr would respond indignantly that he tested endlessly in preparation for his shows. More than that, he actually did so much TV after he burst on the scene that his exposure was massive as compared with the relatively light schedules of the core food stars of the day.

Kamp's book also notes the show was produced in Ottawa, Canada - Wikipedia notes it came to an end after Kerr sustained injuries in a car accident in 1971. (It isn't to be confused with Celebrity Cooks, starring Bruno Gerussi, which was taped in Vancouver from 1979 concurrent with Gerussi's starring role in the always-campy The Beachcombers.) This is where a little cross-referencing is in order. I spent eight years of my kid-hood in snowy Ottawa, and lived one block from fancy Rockcliffe neighborhood (home of Ashbury College) on the wrong side of Maple Lane (well, if not wrong, then less fancy and now, slightly gentrified). It's not very interesting if you grew up rich, but looking back, as a non-rich-kid, it's pretty funny to think about how we always got to play with the children of Cabinet Ministers and ambassadors, just because of the proximity. Once I swam in the indoor pool of the Ghanian ambassador. I watched the Irish ambassador's kid, Padraig Power, go from a completely hapless skater to nearly the best player in our league. Anyway, one day my buddy and I went over to visit the home of a wealthy Asian friend. Well, his parents were wealthy. We were just kids. In the home were five kitchens! It happened to be the former home of Graham Kerr himself, the Galloping Gourmet.

Now what would be the point of having five kitchens? Presumably, that's over the top even if you throw fancy dinner parties. I'm guessing Kerr was testing stuff 24-7. The best in any profession usually have substance to go along with the image, and he was no exception. It also shows just how much money he must have been making at the time. To that point, according to Kamp's account, few outside of Child were getting rich from foodie celebrity. How times have changed.

That leaves me with a thought about fame and fortune and how some achieve it while other deserving folks don't. A longtime favorite cooking celebrity in the Toronto area was Pasquale Carpino - "The Singing Chef." In various local shows he would expertly cook, sing, and joke his way through the expert preparation of Italian dishes. I saw an episode today, actually, but sadly it was a rerun - Carpino died last year, at 69. What always makes you wonder is why he wasn't globally syndicated and a huge celebrity. His routine would give you stomach rumbles (from the food) and belly laughs (from the humor) all at once. That stuff could have traveled! Long, long ago, Carpino was immortalized on SCTV, in Tony Rosato's character "Cooking with Marcello." In one great episode, Marcello gets the dickens bit out of him by a lobster.

As if we haven't slid far enough off topic, the top photo is of me hiking in Algonquin Park. My wife, Carolyn, would be in it, but she took the shot. As you can see, it appears that I just kept on partying after Google Dance 2006, as I still have the t-shirt on. The shot here at the bottom is the view of Diamond Lake, from a cottage we've rented three years running. The Hastings Highlands are one of the better-kept secrets in Ontario. The only search marketer to have shared this view with us (to date) is Mike Grehan and his wife, T.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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