venerdì 6 giugno 2014
La Speranza è l'ultima a morire...
Hope is the last thing to die...
Many friends and family have been following my somewhat cryptic posts on Facebook and wondering what craziness I had involved myself in this time. Well, reluctantly, because that little voice whispering "yes" in the clamour of the sea of "no's" is still just faintly audible in my head; I'll reveal to all what many already know.
For a tortuously never-ending, brief 49 days I was a candidate in the final selection for the cast of Masterchef Italia season 4. At the encouragement of guest and now friend, Chef Peg Schaefer, I filled out the online application to participate in the show. I'd announced to Luciano my intention, what I was doing, bit by bit, blow by blow and he'd interupted his evening television viewing just a long enough to reply with a sarcastic smirk or chuckle. "Hey! I 'm pushing the send button- I'm applying!" met with the patronizing " Yeah, yeah- push the button (ha ha ha)."
After an aborted first attempt, I filled it out again and attached the only photo I had of myself that was recent, the profile pic from Facebook. I sorted through the various photos of food I had posted on my page, mainly pastries and cakes from breakfast, but I had recently ventured into rediscovering some of the flavors of my Cantonese Chinese-American roots, so I had a few pictures of some typical dishes as well. After reflecting on which of the photos showcased my familiarity with various cooking techniques; I selected some chocolate easter eggs I had made (naturally with poodle decorations), a birthday cake decorated with buttercream roses and two bowls of wonton soup. I discarded the gingerbread houses, might seem too crafty I feared. I attached and sent it all away, Date: March 30th.
April 3rd, ( had it been April 1st I would have been sure it was a joke) the cellphone rang on my way to the grocery store..."Hello, this is Francesca from Masterchef , I am calling you about your application. Can you talk?"---"I'm on my way grocery shopping but I can talk a while"...an appointment was made for the next day instead for a phone interview...the first day which transported me back nearly 40 years in time, the years of adolescent angst when life's meaning hanged in the balance of a telephone call.
April 4th, 5:30 pm- the phone rang. "Hello!"
Concern was expressed about my profession, I run a bed and breakfast and taping would take place between May and July, lodging in Milan would be provided, could I, would I be able to be away from my business that long? a bit of waffling on my part- "do you need to think about it?" "No, we'll make it work."
A few more confirmations of the information previously sent, discussion of my food pics. A bit scarce in the "plating" department. Would it be possible for me to plate some of my food this weekend and send pictures? Sure.
Already slightly shell-shocked by the fact that I had actually been called on my way to the grocery store, Luciano started to express his disapproval. Was I crazy? Who would look after the B&B? This would surely in his mind send the business into a downward spiraling demise. What did I think I was doing?
It was one of those moments in my life when I didn't quite know what I was doing but gut instinct told me it was the right thing to do. After 24 years, 10 months and 13 days of marriage my husband and I had come upon an obstacle which was "non-negotialble". Continuing on this journey was something I had to do.
Over the weekend he grudgingly ate pappardelle with ragu, which had been twirled and mounded just so, presented on enormous presentation worthy plates, primped-up and fawned over, and of course, photo documented before they were to be eaten. Homemade ravioli with asparagus sauce, a grilled pork chop with peperonata. I fretted as I had done my shopping for food before the plated food request had been made and I had to make due with what I had in the fridge. All the plates had that hearty trattoria look to them rather than the elegant, ethereal ristorante presence which made me worry. The chocolate lava cake with strawberry coulis and whipped cream looked dainty enough- so I sent off the photos Sunday night. Overtaken with doubt the next morning I snapped a quick picture of strawberry waffles and bacon and eggs I had prepared for a guest and sent those off as well.
Late that afternoon I received the call. Congratulations! you have been selected to participate in a pre-selection of candidates for the transmission. Please come to Rome on Saturday. We start at 8 am but be there early because we will be handing out numbers ahead of time. Bring your dish fully cooked and you will have only a microwave available to prepare your food, you may bring a friend if you like. OK-
My mom taught me to dream and dream big, there was no way at 52 nearly 53 , I could let this train pass me by and so I grabbed on tight bracing myself for the ride. I needed to come up with a plan which could maybe put my husband's mind at ease. As I tried to piece together a plan A, just in case I actually went forward, I was pleased as our best friend the retired baker was encouraging and said not to worry, he would take over homemade baked goods. My friend who had been practicing English conversation with me offered to take over breakfast service duty to help English speaking guests , and the few close confidantes with whom I shared the news of the journey I was embarking upon all cheered me on and encouraged me. Should this impossible dream become a reality, I knew I had a village of people who had my back.
I became more and more convinced that my participation was destined to be. After 20 years, I remembered a session with a psychic in Berkeley, California, Karen Lundegaard. Karen had made a number of predictions about my life here in Italy. All had come true except one which I thought far-fetched at the time " I see you cooking on television". She had forseen the success of Frances Mayes still unwrtitten book, she'd predicted the spotlight it would cast on Cortona, she had seen my 15 year career as a tour director specifically working with university alumni, people who would become important in my life-why couldn't her last prediction for me come true?
I had 6 days to plan a dish, find a hotel, and the courage to believe in my dream.
(to be continued...)