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Behind the Podcast : Davia Nelson on Cooking By Ear

Lesson 2 of 3

Production: Cooking By Ear

 

Behind the Podcast : Davia Nelson on Cooking By Ear

Lesson 2 of 3

Production: Cooking By Ear

 

Lesson Info

Production: Cooking By Ear

Well let's watch the clip. Okay. Alright. Before we enter her house I have my recorder on because I want to capture like everything even if we don't use it. So, a major goal is to sort of just get right in the environment and not have any sort of like fumbling with my mic or like trying to get my headphones on or looking hectic. So trying to make it as, not, kind of like casual but like, I want to be as present as possible, in the moment but also establish like we're doing and interview. We're not just hanging out. So I have my headphones on and my mic rolling and I think that like the initial goal is just to like get inside someones home and have them put them in action so it doesn't go into this, like we're not just makin' small talk. Like I want you to show me around your house. I want to show, you want, like with Davia specifically we didn't know what her house was gonna be like at all. We'd never been to her home but her kitchen is like, the minute we walked it's like bright...

ly colored. She's got records on the floor. Like Bob Dylan books. Like brightly colored photographs and dolls. It's like a very lived in colorful house. And we wanted to capture all that somehow through sound. I think that also that our collaboration really helps with that because, while Kristina can be focusing on getting the mic, making sure that the sound levels are right and everything, I can be that one who's kind of more casually setting that kind of tone that like, we're there to record but we're also there to like have a good time and cook together and the whole, the whole sort of thrust of our show is that when you get together and cook with people, good things happen. So we want to like get into that part of it right away. I feel like today with Davia we got into some conversations right away. Often we go right to the like show us around your kitchen. Has it always been like this? Pretty much. I mean the thing that I think of when I walk in my kitchen is moving in here with my boyfriend Bro and he, it was time to paint and he said well what do you want? How do you want the kitchen to be painted? What's on your mind? And he had this beautiful, he was a fishermen and he had this beautiful poster of fish of the western region. Fish of the western region I think it was. And there was this beautiful salmon on the, it had 30 different fish. Used to be over there. I said see the kind of colors of this fish? See the kind of colors? Can we, can the kitchen look like this fish? And he talked with a friend, Nicki's husband actually. Charles Prentice is a painter and Charles loves color and he and Charles imagined this kitchen together and they put that line in there. They kind of created that, Oh yeah. fake sort of wainscotting. Is the what you'd call it? Yeah. The two shades of yellow. The kind of bright enamel paint. The green, the, here's the belly of the salmon. Yeah. The kind of greens, I see the salmon there. and it just is, I know it needs painting. It was painted in '85 or six or seven or, no. Probably '85, 80, yeah who knows? Then. And, but I don't want to paint it. It just is perfect to me as is. It doesn't need painting. It'll, anyways. So it feels very, it's got a lot of color. It's got a lot of heart. It's got a couple of guys and their imaginations and a fish, fish of the western region and it's so-- Did you always have this nice stove? The stove was here when we got here. Yeah, it's only-- What is it-- Actually I was thinking about you guys coming today going you will probably help improve this stove. You'll see little tweaks that could happen 'cause it's sort of on its last legs. But it's sort of like the paint job. It ain't goin' anywhere. No no you can't ever get, get someone to come in and tune it up for ya. Yeah. 'Cause you don't want to get rid of it. Yeah. Oo a tune up, see? Yeah. Already I never thought of that. But-- Yeah no they have people who do that. But (laughs) what sort of thing is that? That's where you keep your GoPro. Hilarious. Hilarious guys. (all laughing) So very clever. I have a question about those. There are two plates up there that are like-- So years ago-- They're like cafeteria plates kind of or like, I'm just describing. They're, or they're like, they're kind of like the chinet like plates you get at the picnics that's got like the compartments right? That kind of-- The divided-- Yeah. Little three sections. So years ago, I had some fiesta ware. I picked it up at flea markets or whatever and I was so proud and I had those little dividers. The main dish, the side dish, the side dish, those three place and a friend of mine came over to my place. Actually I owned this place with her and another girlfriend. This was in Santa Cruz back in the day, and she looked at my fiesta ware plates and she said I just hate that stuff. I just don't like that at all. I was like, okay. And later that night she was washing dishes and low and behold she broke it. She had declared she didn't like it and then, and she claimed there was no connection between the breaking of the plates and the statement of animosity to the plates but by the end of the day I didn't have those plates anymore and she felt so bad that, and maybe I want to say five years later, I don't know how many years it was. It was not the next day. It was not a month later. It wasn't a year later. She found these somewhere and she, they didn't even look like this. They were the more classic, this kind of fiesta ware. Yeah, with the lines. With the lines and the kind of glaze. But anyway she found those and so, I put those there and they're sort of in Dani's honor but I don't know why they feel slightly like they come from outer space and protect the house. They're little discs of, and they seem to fit in with the colors of the salmon so they live there. Those are you're guardian plates correct? My guardian plates. Okay. You need to describe everything in a way that you just wouldn't if you were a visitor to someone's kitchen because it's audio so you have to kind of either do the description yourself or try and elicit that description from your guest. So like we saw the plates up on the top of her cabinets and finding those things to get someone to like give up something about themselves by describing their belongings, it feels, it can sometimes feel a little bit forced and maybe it is a little bit forced but it works and it gets that kind of thing going on so took to establish like an audio atmosphere so you kind of start to see when you're listening you start to see where you are and you can imagine that someone might have these plates like you have plates at your house and it gets you into the world that we're in. Maybe we should talk about how when I asked you if I could come and teach you to cook something and you said but you're gonna really be shocked at my kitchen and I was like no no it's okay. We cook in all kinds of kitchens and you said but there's nothing there. I'm traveling so much. I have, I'm really embarrassed for you to see my kitchen but-- All true (laughs). And kind of funny that the Kitchen Sister has the kitchen with maybe not quite ready. Empty (laughs). But it looks like maybe you stocked it up a little bit. Well I stocked up but probably most of that was there and I just in my mind kind of don't see it 'cause I mean yes, probably we could find five things or 10 things that I put in since you and I had that conversation and I am here for a longer stretch so I'm using it. But yeah. I love to cook and I cooked a lot in my teens. Really a lot of my teens and in college and in my early 20's and, but it's funny. I started documenting food and sort of stopped cooking it. I mean I do little bits, yeah. It's, I don't know. I started documenting music and stopped playing it too. I play guitar. I was a musician in my childhood playing all the time. But sort of the recording of it and the chronicling of it. And I'm just always so curious out in the world. Like I also love, I have to say I love restaurants. I love going to my friends houses. I like eating in different ways but yeah. I'm not a master cook. Why were you cooking so much in your teens? (Davia sighs) My stepmother, just hated cooking. She was a musician. She was a classical musician. Her father was in Toscanini's orchestra. Her brother was in great symphony's. Her husband was too. She was a classical pianist. She was a woman in her time and had many more doubts and insecurities. I don't know if she would've made it into the orchestras or not but it was not an era where you had to be so firm and strong and just single tracked if that was gonna happen in your life and I think she was, and also I think she was a depressed person but she didn't want to be making meals every night. And she just baked her unhappiness into almost every meal. She would kind of, first she would burn it, then she would freeze it. Then she would thaw it. Then she would burn it again and then we would eat it. And I'm over stating it a little bit but she, that was not her strong suit and I knew there was something better. I took, it was home ec. There were home ec classes then and we had cooking, we had sewing. It spoke to me so early. My dad would do cooking on Sundays and he would make crepes which were French pancakes and he would matsapha and he would make omelets and every, and we would go to this one Italian restaurant in LA, Sarno's which was where they played opera and people sand together and anyway, kind of knew there was this other world out there. Anyway I just, so I got, I just wanted to cook for our family. I think the first thing was a english muffin tuna melt on and english muffin and on a Sunday. I will cook for this family (laughs) and it just began there and then I got obsessed with making cookies and then selling cookies and trying to raise money for the anti-war, stop the Vietnam War somehow. I conflated that I could bake enough to raise all this money to help fun the anti-war movement and so it was a political act as well and then I lived in a co-op at UC Santa Cruz and cooked a lot in that co-op and, just it was, it's the best. You're never alone. I always say to people that come and intern with us or, and people I feel like if you play music or you cook you will never be alone in this world. You will, there will always be a weather system around you. It was just so joyous. It was a classic moment where someone's, I can't remember what we were originally talking about. I don't, I don't know. she was just saying like I don't know. Like she was making, she was saying like I don't cook as much right now or something and we were talking and she's like, she just casually was like well I cooked a lot, a lot, a lot in my teens and then tried to move past that and then when I hear something like that and see somebody kind of like go back a little bit like she was obviously remembering something, I don't want to just move past that 'cause I feel like that's a detail that maybe wouldn't come up in standard interviews when you're interviewing the Kitchen Sister's on radio making or something. And then to go back to that, just that shift in tone and then she, yeah. It's revealed that like a lot about her relationship with her step mother kind of came through and then she said that fantastic thing about her baking in like her despair into the dish which I was like I want to talk more about that but we couldn't, we get moved on kind of fast but if I had a second chance I would've talked more about that idea. So just getting the sense of like who she might've had to be as like the woman of her family and then her relationship with food at a young age. It was something she was trying to kind of prove that she could do. Yeah. In absence of a real home cook. Let's make some pastas that you can put together like from your pantry with, you can add in a little fresh ingredients if you have them but you don't necessarily need them. These are classics that everybody's had and maybe made but they're deservedly classic. So I thought we'd make, we'll make two different sauces and then we'll eat one of 'em and you can keep one of 'em to eat next time. Tomorrow or something. So the first one is Bucatini all'Amatriciana. You probably have had. Classic dish from this town right outside of Rome. Amatrice typically made with guanciale which is the cured pork jowl. Kind of like bacon or pancetta. And then tomato and some say garlic some say not. If you've traveled or been around Italians they're very opinionated about every dish has to be just this way. This is how we make it in this town. Maybe they make it a different way in that town but we're not in that other town. We're in this town. We only make it this way. I don't feel so rule bound. So we'll make that one that's basically like a tomato, they both are kind of a tomato sauce but that's one's tomato sauce that's sort of enriched with guanciale. I did find some guanciale so we'll use that. And then the other one, also a tomato based sauce, Putanessca with anchovies and capers and olives. They both kind of tie in to my book that's coming out in September which is called-- A coincidence. Yeah. Almonds, Anchovies and Pancetta. So, I-- May I just add that those are three ingredients I do often have in my kitchen. Yeah. You should put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta. (water running) Okay Cal, first question. Are you a start with cold water kind of a guy? I am. Yeah. Yeah. Unless I'm in a hurry. I always use a lot of water for one thing. And, cold water because it's fresher especially if you have tank hot water 'cause it's, the water in your, in a hot water tank's been sittin' there for awhile. Not sure how to, much difference it really makes. But you can kind of taste it if you taste the hot water. It tastes a little bit different than the cold water. A new phobia I'm gonna have. Add it to the list About water? of Cal's Yeah. buzzkill tips. Well if you like, do you know if you ask like all the coffee or tea geek people about how to make the best coffee and tea they'll tell you start with cold water. Right. Yeah. Fresh cold water. And not like the water that you already had in your kettle. There's a small guppy in our home today. Yeah. It looked like a little fish. Oh. It's not really a fish but. That's okay. A little fish in there isn't that bad. With these. The people don't know. There's a little Yeah right. Goldfish in our-- we're just gonna have a little guppy in our Amatriciana. Okay. Want the cover? Are we gonna cover it? Yeah we'll put a lid on there. And I know that you're gonna put in salt. We're gonna salt it after it's warm? Yeah. I'm not sure it really matters. Okay. But we can do it after and then we'll soak the capers in a little bowl or something. Actually can you get me one of those, the cherry bowl? You see that bowl with the cherries? Thank you. (clattering) Do you have a favorite bowl that you return to? I know it's all kind of precarious out there Jim. Good luck. Oh the cherries? Yeah. See that one with the cherries? I kinda collect bowls a tiny bit. When I travel I try and, this was from Norway. There's, I don't have a big bowl collection but I do love them all. Now, we'll probably need, let's say that's probably one tablespoon. We're making pasta for four. What don't we do a tablespoon per serving? Can you say what you're doing Cal? Yes. So I'm just, these capers are packed in salt. So it's dry, there's no brine. And I'm just putting them in a bowl with water too. Get the-- Filling, and filling the bowl? Yeah. Fill the bowl. Actually we should, since they have salt rinse them? on 'em-- Do a rinse? To just rinse 'em. Do you have like a little, oh yeah you can just use your fingers to strain it off. Yeah. Do you want the colander? We'll eventually need a colander. Okay. There's a big one up there and there's smocks up there and then there's small ones below. Okay. (cookware clattering) It's baby sister. I'm gonna give it one more rinse. (water rushing) (cookware clattering) Now soak 'em? Yeah. (cookware clattering) So for the capers we're just rinsing off the course salt that's all over them and then putting them in fresh water to soak out the salt that's kind of in them. You said like four tablespoons? Yeah like a tablespoon per person. You were just like, Per serving. Clumps in there. Yeah I was just using my hand. Okay. And you can, if you love capers you can put a lot more in. If you hate capers, then there's something just turn off your Podcast wrong with you. right now. Right. But you could just leave 'em out I guess all together. So the water's on. The capers are soaking. And the next step would be to, I don't know. We can make Amatriciana with onions or no onions. What do you think? Let's make it with onions. With onions? Okay. Let's just go for, I mean, make it the perfect way you would want to make it if you were not in a hurry and making it in a delish. I think we'll put onions in both of them. Okay. Yeah. So, but we should do them one at a time. Cutting board? So we need a cutting board. Okay. And a knife. Alright. Knives are here. (knives clattering) Tell me what we need. Here you go. Any one. Just maybe this middle one. Yeah. That's good. But do we need a little? Yeah we might need that too. A little baby. Okay. Alright. And... There's two. Do you want something bigger or smaller? This guy? A little bit. This? That would be good, yeah. Okay you want to just hold onto that? Yeah let's do that. You know what a coolickle is? IBut think I'm gonna have that be the third dish to make. Coolickle's are where you take a jar of pickles that you bought right? And you add a packet of Kool Aid to the juice that's in the pickle and you shake it up and it's, and Bob likes grape Kool Aid so you have these really outrageous looking dark purple, I didn't eat one. I can't really imagine what they were like (laughs) but-- And the word's so fun to say. Yeah they're fun, yeah. Yeah coolickle. I can't stop saying coolickle. Yeah. What would it be like if you had a plate of weenie royal with a couple coolickle's on the side? It would be like, beautiful. You are set. Chase it with some pralines. There you go. There's your meal. Yeah. [Davia] There's your trouble. But yeah there's that motivation for like, Yeah. I'm not gonna go by the directions. I'm gonna make this yeah. my way. You know how to do it. Yeah. Yeah and that's how the great dishes are born probably. Yeah. Putanessca. Mighta could been a hack. Yeah right. Probably was. I'll say a little statement or a little anecdote and then tie it to a question because I guess I just feel like it's not, we're there with our guest and so, most of what I say at least introductory comments or like the beginning of a conversation should be a question in some way. It shouldn't just be I like coolickle's. It should be you ever had a coolickle? So, and then as the conversation goes of course I feel free and like I will offer my own experiences or anecdotes but to start it off with a question I think is the way to go although sometimes I feel like you can almost kind of tie yourself in a knot to get to the, to make it into a question which is maybe a sign that you should just maybe, that maybe it wasn't that good of a question. If you have to like, if you have to try so hard to come up with a question that relates to your anecdote that maybe you just wanted to tell your anecdote and there is no question there. So, good to pay attention to that. I'm not sure the cool-- Pacanessca we'll call it. (Kristina laughs) I'm sure coolickle's are ever gonna like ascend to the great dishes of the world but, okay. So now we've got the beautiful guanciale cut up and it does look like some really nice guanciale. You can by the way eat this, it's, you could eat it raw if you wanted to just like with all the cured meats. But, let's so let's heat up our skillet and we'll add some, a little bit of oil and a little bit of lard. Okay well, we have lard but. And it could be just oil. Like if you don't have lard Right. you could just use oil. Okay. So we'll get the skillet heated up a little bit. Then we'll put, we're gonna want at least a quarter cup total of oil, lard. So maybe we'll do a quarter cup is four tablespoons so maybe we'll do two tablespoons of lard and two tablespoons of-- Three. And maybe we'll start a little less 'cause we're gonna cook the, the guanciale's gonna give up some fat too. So. (pan sizzling) No oil? Just the lard for now? Yeah just the lard for now. This is gonna also give off fat right? Yeah. We might end up not needing any oil but. (pan sizzling) Can I just get this sound for a second? (pan sizzling) Turned up too high? (pan sizzling) It smells so good. Since I'm using a Zoom H4N and the mics are built it and I don't use an external mic, my hand is on an actual recorder which not everyone would, I'm sure a lot of people wouldn't recommend to do 'cause you can get mic handling sounds. So that's why I have, they call it a dead cat but it's wind guard that you put on top of your mic sort of to muffle any, it's just like the mics are super sensitive on the Zoom. So anyway, so when I'm holding my arm like I'm like lifting weights it's because I don't want any movement. Sometimes I like hold it like this so I'm like using a, what would that be called? I don't know but I'm trying to steady it. So that's why my arm is like pretty stiff. Like pressing it? I thought you were doing that 'cause your arm was getting heavy? I was doing it so I don't, you can't hear my, like movements. Oh. I see. We learned something. How about it? And also yeah, your arm is, you're like holding it up in the air. Kneeling down, I just feel sometimes like I may have been shyer when I first started out to like get up really close to people or like really follow them around the house and then I'm like there's no reason to be shy. They know that's why you're there to do, to record them and the best possible sounds and, there's a moment where Davia's like going through the pans and that could've been a throw away moment but then thinking like that can be ambi in the background but I also, she's talking to herself like where's my cheese grater and like what's this and just like the way that she's interacting with the pots like that's all good sound. And it can be used somehow. I could punctuate it throughout the piece. Davia what's your favorite kitchen sound? Do you have a favorite kitchen sound? The sound. One of my favorites is, that we discovered on this Podcast is leftover spaghetti with sauce frying in a pan. Oh, I could go with. It sounds like what I think glitter would sound like if it had like a, that little noise. A little ch ch ch. It's very satisfying. Oo. Okay I'll trade you your recording of spaghetti being fried in pan for my recordings of rain bird sprinklers. There's something so beautiful and also of hummingbirds. Oh. But if I have, what is my favorite kitchen sound? I don't know. I haven't-- Are rain bird sprinklers the one that goes like ch ch ch ch ch and then shh. Shh. Ch ch ch ch ch. Ch. Yeah and ch. Ch. Ch. Ch. Ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch. You know that sort of slow chug. Yeah. But I think they are no more on that level. It's a little high, yeah. Some things are good for audio and video and if you're gonna make audio work in terms of I'm trying to picture our listener in their kitchen and they're trying to figure out whatever they're cooking in the pan is done. And so we need to give them all the clues we can. It smells like this, it looks like this, it sounds like this. I get our guest to hopefully to say what they think it looks like because sometimes I remember we were cooking with Alexander Pane and we were making a rue and then a bechamel sauce and it was like what does it look like to you Alexander? 'Cause to me I thought like I have a comparison. Like it looks like yogurt or it looks, and, but I just wanted to see what he came up with and maybe he's got a better one than me, or just a different view. So, as much information as you can give, especially for a recipe so that people know like oh I've got, I hit that mark and now I can move on to the next one, it's important. (pan sizzling) We'll just turn it down a little and look why don't you just-- Okay would you keep stirring it like this? No I think Is that what you do? You're doin' great. Yeah. Okay. It's starting to change. What are you, how would you word it? It's browning. And it's glistening and the fats sort of falling into the pan and the, what's left more is the little meaty red part. But the fat's also frying up and crisping. Just smells so good. It smells really good. Okay we're gonna Lard with the guanciale need another dish. back. What kind of, what size? Yeah. This one here. Yeah. [Cal] Rummaging through your cabinets. Yeah, go for it. And this can, you can use this plate too if you need it. I can, Okay. put that one out to. (dishes clattering) We'll just take the whole thing out and maybe drain it. Oh okay. Just cook it to that amount? Not yet? Hmm, yeah I think we're ready. Okay. How do you know when it's done? So actually we're gonna want some of the fat so if you could just kinda scoop the-- The whole thing? the meat out. Okay. Keep the fat in the pan. Okay. Describe lot of, something about it. Yeah so we're just gonna kind of scoop out the meat and leave the fat in the pan. The grease if you will. And how do you know like when it's time to free the guanciale (laughs)? To free the guanciale? It's got like a little color. It went, it sort of went from opaque to transparent and then it kind of went back to opaque again right? Yeah. It looks a little bit brown. It smells really good. We're using all the senses. Also it sounded done. Yeah, it did. It could, it had good sonics. Mm hm. Just to recap, we cooked the guanciale in some lard. We left the oil in the pan. We added the onions that Davia sliced up so nicely and we added a little bit of salt. We're gonna let the onions cook all the way. In the meantime we'll get, we'll chop some garlic and we will chop up the tomatoes. And we'll chop a little parsley. I think in Italy they would never put parsley in it but we're going to. I've seen it in the book, in the Amatriciano. Yeah. We're in the, okay. Yeah I was surprised by that too. I feel like parsley in both of 'em. Okay. Or just not at all. But hey we're in California and, Okay. we're gonna have parsley. And I think we've learned that that is a good thing to do. It helps me to kind of remember where we are in a recipe because we're kind of going off on tangents and talking about things, but I also think it gives us an opportunity in editing to have those moments and if you say them more than once, like I've already said that we did that and we did that but then to say okay, now we've got the pasta's in the water, and then sauce is ready and we're just letting it simmer, it can seem, I think it's helpful to get, to make sure that we're all in the same place. Us live in the kitchen and also our listeners at home. Don't you think that's helpful? Yeah and I also think that sometimes there's a tendency to just get caught in like the cooking and the moment and you're like okay we're gonna put this in there and then it, then someone's thinking about the sound and you're thinking about the cooking. I sometimes stop you and say you're putting what in what? Can you like say Right. that again? But it's just like, you just have to constantly be doing that kind of reminder 'cause your focusing on the recipe at hand. Right. And teaching this person and I have to focus on the person who can't see. That's why it's good there's two of us. Yeah (laughs). It's sometimes your explaining something, but rinsing the dish you turn the water and that's gonna like mess up the whole sound so then I have to make you repeat it. Yeah I know. But it's not 'cause you're a bad person. No. Just 'cause you're a chef. Doing your chef thing. Yeah. Thank you. We're gonna cook the garlic. Okay. And the thing about cooking garlic is-- Wait, wait, wait, wait. Can you say that? The thing about cooking garlic is that whenever the garlic goes into the pan you always have to have something ready to stop it. Right. From cooking. From burning? Oh from browning? From browning yeah and burning. We never ever forget anything (laughs). We're just perfect. One take. It's just one take. We actually do a whole second recording session where it's just Cal talking, essentially talking us, talking to me through the recipe. So I have him say every instruction really clearly. I have like sound. I really mic sounds because like today with Davia there was, I could've mic'd the onions more but I was more, I wanted to get whatever Davia was saying and I can always go in my onion sounds similar sizzling and a lot of different pans. So I can always (laughs) get that later. So if we didn't get you saying the exact amount, I would take it from our seconds as a rule and try to edit it in. Right. As much as possible but in a smooth way (laughs). That's also something over learned from writing cookbooks is that I need to really make a concerted effort to sort of codify what I do and, 'cause otherwise I just grab this much parsley and take it off and chop it up this much because I know what I want and I do it all the time and so I have to stop and say oh no it's eight sprigs of parsley and then I'm chopping it up medium fine. Here let's take it apart and then we can figure out how many sprigs we're using of it. Oh okay. Not just the top leaf? So we can help people. Do you, are you using the sprigs too? Not just the leaf? No we're using just the leaves but I'm just, just so I can say like you need-- Oh yeah, right. Eight sprigs of parsley or whatever. So that's one, two, three, four, five, six. Yeah eight. Oh wow. So eight sprigs of the leaves from eight sprigs pf parsley. And we'll do 16 since we're gonna use for the other pasta too. Okay. So yeah just pull Leaves pulled? the leaves off. Okay. A little bit of stem is okay but, you don't really want the big stems. When you're like interviewing someone and it's maybe a particularly sensitive situation or you're not from that, you're far from being from that community or whatever, how do you feel like you like break the ice or like get people to be more comfortable? Like, what do you, what are your tips? For if you are already out with your microphone and you're walking amongst people? Yeah. I mean I think we're in a lucky period of time because so many people have headphones on now and so someone walking in a community with headphones and with gear isn't as, like when we started out nobody was doing that. There was, it just wasn't headphone culture but so I feel like, right there like you probably feel more, what I'm trying to say I guess is you probably feel more awkward than people are thinking you are. I try to keep it really casual with my equipment. I, and I'm also kind of a fumbler as you kind of noticed. I, so often things are falling off of me and instead of getting, having that make me uptight I just realized over the years, it almost helps people to have it not be so present and perfect and I, I hang out for a little bit in the presence of a situation before I'll go in but often times I'll just say what's going on here? What's up here or I was just walking by and saw da da and people will, I mean I don't just stick it in their face right off the bat. Even if I do know I really want that first response on tape I will have it a little lower and here and then slowly creep up and then I will say who I am and what I'm doing. I do story, I mean we do stories for MPR and people love MPR so mostly they're happy to hear that but I don't think it takes that much to, and people will often, we often are recording people who are shy who haven't been recorded, who don't feel like their story is important or, and are soft spoken grandmothers or shy teenagers or, ethnic communities where just people aren't used to it and so I try not to rush and jam and be too aggressive. I just try and be present and have the microphone with me but not-- Right. Not the sword. Like? Yeah. Is there like a go to question or area that you go to when you're doing a sit down interview and people are like really? No I don't-- Tense? I don't have that. Okay. I don't. Oh when I started getting into audio that was then like another thing you learn like you have to be everything. You have to be the photographer, you have to be the audio producer, you need to do social media, you need to be a writer, copywriter. All those things 'cause you're not gonna necessarily have the luxury of having a photographer be taking those photos. But like for the first few episodes, like our very first episode that we did with Francis McDorman I did not take a single photo and I think it's 'cause it was our first time. I was like I have to focus on getting the sound. That's like my one job. But then we didn't have any photos from that episode. So even just if it's from an iPhone or a camera phone rather like I just try to capture it if there's any, I don't remember when we did it today but I think there's a transition that I know wouldn't be I don't know, in the final cut. I didn't feel like I was missing sound. I can't remember what was happening. We were washing dishes or something and then that was my chance to go around and get a bunch of photos. And you should just always take as many photos as possible and not just of the person, in our case like not just of the, like Cal and Davia cooking but I want to like see what her pantry looks like or like close up on like she had a huge seashell like on top of her what is it called? Like basically her radio, her stereo next to her computer. I thought that was interesting and then she had records all over her floor. She was like oh these are from the story that we did on the first women lead radio station. I'm like oh, I'm glad I got a photo of that. Like (laughs) you just never know like, just trying to get like weird oddities from around her house and let the messiness of the kitchen like after we've done, we've been done cooking. Things like that. Like focus on objects and not just like selfies. But we did take selfies. So I use the photos for Instagram. I use them as backdrops when we do audio grams which is just combining a photo with like a short usually less than a minute clip of audio so that it can live on social media and it's more sharable. You're getting sort of sound bites but they have a visual to them. I use it for our website. I think this is like as a learning lesson is like things aren't obviously gonna go according to script. They're not gonna go, we had in mind doing two dishes and our usual flow is like we talk for a little bit beforehand, then we finally get to cooking. We cook all the stuff and then maybe we talk for a little bit while we're eating. But today it's all, you have to like really read your room and really feel out the vibe and the emotion of your guest and I feel like it was obvious that Davia was hungry and wanted to like dig in and eat. So it was like to keep cooking. It was also obvious that when she was cooking with you she wanted to learn and focus on what you were teaching her Yeah. and talk about technique and, sometimes guests just want to chop and tell stories. Sometimes they really want to focus on what you're saying and, Right. she wanted to pay attention to what you were saying. So the better thing would be to sit down and actually give space for story telling and having her answer questions. So today instead of just like plowing through two dishes we took a moment and decided to sit down and eat and that was all we had time for. So it was kind of a lucky choice Yeah. that we didn't because if we had done a second recipe, we wouldn't have had We wouldn't have time. enough time to sort get some stories from her. To sit down and talk. Yeah. And more descriptive time. Yeah. Can we sit down and eat? (laughs) Oh yeah. And take a little break from cooking and ask some questions? And just ask all our deep questions? I know that you didn't want to do that but I think that'd be nice to take a little break. Yeah. I've heard that your work over the years but I was just, when you dig in with intention like that, you get more stuff so I'll just say it was a delight to dig into your vast amount of work. But one of the first things I read was that you and Nicki liked to make cinematic radio. And I was wondering if you could talk about that and talk about when and how audio is better than pictures? I don't think I would say audio is better than pictures. It's the medium I'm drawn to the most. It's the medium I work in the most though I also work in film too but I feel there's something so direct and to the soul with audio and when you do it well, which can also just be a really simple thing. I don't mean it has to be super produced. But I do feel like the way the mind works, you, the mind then provides the pictures. And so you're listening but your own imagination is so kicked in, is so activated and now you're telling part of the story too and you're more kind of present than when, but I'm, I think people are so present when they're seeing photography or seeing a film. So, or paintings. It so depends on how you're wired but I do feel like there is some way that it, we are more very strong and fragile all at the same time. Intimate maybe is the better word. Yeah 'cause I'm, we're learning (clears throat) as we go along as you recommended earlier that don't be afraid to make your mistakes and like make things happen as you go. But one of the things is like trying to figure out what, 'cause I've gotten a little bit of feedback and people have been like are you gonna do videos to go with it and why don't you do video? And it's really made me think about, are there places where audio works better than video? That it, it's not that it's better in general but what I'm trying to do is find the places where it can be the right medium for that message that you're trying to give and one example that didn't occur to me first but somebody mentioned to me was that, if they are cooking from an audio recipe as opposed to a written one, they're compelled to learn the recipe because it's kind of fleeting and you have to pay attention because it's Right. happening now. You're streaming real time with it. Yeah. As opposed to if you know you can always flip open that book again, then you kind of don't, you're not incentivized to learn it. You just do it and then next time you'll, it's like you learn it anew every time whereas what I'm hoping to do is to get people to learn to cook where they won't need my cookbooks or the recipe. Planned up some lessons. Exactly yeah. But in another way you're like giving people that experience of cooking with somebody through the Podcast which is sort of how cooking's always happened. You're cooking with your grandmother, you're cooking with your mother, you're cooking with your father, you're cooking with your friends. And you are cooking in real time. I mean maybe there's a recipe or maybe you're just learning some technique or some dish from somebody and it's all happening and you can't stop it. It's just moving forward. I also think that when you ask the question of what's the benefit of audio versus visuals, I think a lot of people are much more comfortable with the microphone than a camera. And so you might be able to draw certain people. Maybe Francis McDorman would've said yes to you if you said I'm coming in with a camera but my hunch is what she is hesitated less because it was audio. I would think, I mean Big Frita's another story. There's a lot of people that you're talking to but there's, I find in life and that's what I was gonna say to you earlier too as we were starting to talk about recording people, a camera. I mean I am in such awe of people who do documentary film and who can approach people with a camera, especially strangers but and have people feel so natural and relaxed to tell long story's and their truths with a camera there. That's harder for me. But I think for, that's the other benefit you'll have is a lot of, Hank probably is saying yes in part 'cause he knows it's radio. Yeah right. And also 'cause in this moment in time people are so intrigued with Podcasting and the amedeesee of it and the directness of it and the being able to pass it along versus a film being seen to just, there's kind of a magic and a whimsy and a tenderness and a provocation and all that to what you're, and you're kind of by presenting cooking, I think people are kinda going how's he gonna do that? How are they gonna do that? And so they want to know. I mean you're breaking train. I've always wanted there to be a CD of cooking where you were someone was telling you about this, 10 years ago I had this thought. Like you're cooking and you've got someone talking you through the recipe as you're cooking it and then you're hearing the music of the place and, maybe you're hearing little snatch of the literature at the place and you're kind of steeping yourself in it as you're doing it. And I do think people will connect to that. Yeah. That's (clears throat) ironic that, that's part of my pitch when I approach a guest is that I think part of why people find it easier to say yes to my request for them to be a guest on the show is we show up at their place, we're gonna teach 'em how to cook something and everyone wants to know how to cook something and there's no camera. Yeah. So I extra appreciate you and I'm gonna appreciate you. Oh. (all laughing) Me of all people is like oh man. for a long time. Okay I must love you Cal (laughs). You get big credit for this one. I think the other thing just that there's a distraction and it's not just like you're doing a press interview or you're doing your book tours and we're getting you to talk about your book again. It's like we're just gonna cook a meal together. And you're like oh. I love cookin' meals or I love eating. Right. And then it's an easy entry point. Right. Easy entry and most people want to learn. You're offering to teach too. People know your reputation or know you, Yeah. directly and so that's, you're offering a gift. And I think a lot of people want to tell their story. Even if they've they're just coming off their press junket or whatever and they've told it a bunch of times. But- It's a new way to-- Yeah it's a new way to tell it and it's in a more relaxed way. So they can kind of just tell it from the heart instead of trying to like position it in a way that'll sell the film or sell the book or sell the thing or whatever. So, I think that helps. Wow. Fantastic. You guys do such a good job of just making her feel comfortable. And there's three people having an authentic conversation while that's all going on. As far as like, it's been a couple weeks now I guess since we captured that. How are you feeling about how that went? What are your thoughts now about having just seen part of that again? I think it went really well and one of the things I was a little bit concerned about it, I do, I've known Davia for decades and we've done lots of event together and so I was a little bit, and that hasn't really been the case. I mean I've known some of the other guests but not quite as well. And I was a little concerned that maybe that would skew our conversation or we'd get a little too insidery or something but, I don't think we did so yeah. I was happy with the way it came out. What, don't you think? Yeah I'm sure every, all of our interview I, this is my emotional roller coaster or like wow that was such a relief. They're so great. I love people like my job is wonderful, like sound's important and I'm like yeah, and then my wife's like how'd it go and I'm like so great blah blah blah. And then like three hours later I'm like (sighs), I didn't ask her about this thing. I didn't, I go through the like regret reel which is just anxiety. Which I'm sure everyone goes through. Like, I try to leave it all out on the court but there's of course things you can't get to. So watching that I was like oh yeah that was a pretty good question. Or like, I'm like, I was sort of doing some editing in my mind while I was watching that like okay we'll keep this clip in or we'll cut this out. So, thank you (laughs). What were just, yeah totally. (Kristina laughs) What were some of things that came up that you were like oh man I wish I had asked that. Was there specific stuff? We just didn't get to like all of her body of work. Like I kind of go into sort of like this amnesia mode so I'm trying to think of like things that we didn't ask her that we really wanted Well one question to ask. that I know, like there was a quote that she said something like I'm repeatedly struck by the perversity of what we do. And I just wanted her to talk about that. Like what's the perverse, like I have, and actually I'm sure I'll see her again. I would like to know because I guess is what she meant that like, that we're kind of voyeuristic in a way or something but I'm not sure. So yeah. There's, and you get to your list and like sometimes you can tell. Like I really want to ask this question but I can tell we're kind of done. Like she's-- She's getting tired. Yeah. Right. We've got all the goods that like from here on out it's like diminishing return, Yeah. so it's time to let it go. Yeah. Also there's like a little moment where we opened her silverware drawer and (laughs) there's lipstick inside. And I was like Davia is that lipstick in your drawer? And she's like shh. And I don't know why should like I love that 'cause I love lipstick and I'm like yeah. And I love that it's among her forks. But I wish that maybe I talked a little more about that but she kind of gave me the signal not to. Yeah. But I'm just gonna quietly Yeah. tell you all right now. (all laughing) So if you're watching, Yeah. the secret's out.

Class Description

After 22 years as head chef at the iconic Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, Cal Peternell left and teamed up with audio producer Kristina Loring to work on a new venture, a podcast called “Cooking By Ear.” In each episode, Cal visits the kitchen of a famous friend, like Frances McDormand and Alexander Payne, where they talk about everything from food to family to poetry to film. Listeners are encouraged to cook along in real time, so they’ll have a complete meal by the end of the episode.

In this behind the scenes look at the making of an episode, Cal cooks and chats with Davia Nelson, one half of the Kitchen Sisters team, an award-winning radio producer, podcaster, and author whose work focuses on cooking, culture, diversity, and activism.

After 22 years in the iconic Berkeley, California, kitchen, Peternell left Chez Panisse last year and teamed up with audio producer Kristina Loring to focus on a new venture : Cooking By Ear, a podcast in which he visits the kitchens of his iconic friends to cook a dish and chat about everything from food and family to poetry and film.  

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