I was, as usual, listening with half an ear to the house ads and teasers on WAMU-FM, when I sat right up: there was an announcement of the chance to be in the audience for a live broadcast of Kojo Nnamdi’s Wednesday food show, when his guest would be Pati Jinich. And more – Pati would do a demo just before the show. Needless to say, I signed right up.
We arrived at the new WAMU headquarters on Connecticut Avenue on a beautiful day at the end of June. The waiting room was already full of fellow Kojo fans. This would be the first live studio-audience show from their basement broadcasting theater. We were led downstairs to the bright, cheery space fitted with a demonstration kitchen, set with cafe tables and decorated with Mexican paper flowers and garlands.
The staff seemed as excited as the audience. WAMU’s general manager, J.J. Yore, was there, and the local host, Matt McCleskey, served as foil for Pati as she prepared a dish from her new cookbook. Gazpacho Moreliano, or Morelia-Style Savory Fruit Salad, she explained, is not Spanish-style gazpacho, and many restaurants in Morelia (in Michoacán state) claim to have the original recipe. It includes cotija cheese, onions and chile along with mixed fruit and jicama. It sounds a little improbable, but is delicious. Pati mentioned that it could be made with other white cheese, but she prefers cotija for its “barnyardy” taste.
Station interns passed out samples, and Pati took questions. Then it was time to file into the studio for the broadcast. And there was a surprise – Kojo and Pati were joined, not just by Mariano Ramos, chef and instructor at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, but by Paula Johnson, curator of the FOOD Exhibit at the National Museum of American History.
During the show, Pati told tales of food in her life, including the time she got weepy over a Mexican hot dog, her first after twenty years away. She was filming for her TV show. The powerful emotional impact of food!
Chef Mariano pointed out that humans are the only animal who uses heat to cook food. Kojo asked each of them what is their favorite kitchen tool? Mariano loves his blow torch (there’s a theme here). Pati prefers her blender. Paula, joining for the last segment, described how the NMAH exhibit traced the history of Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex cuisines. The topic of tortillas came up. In answer to the question, “What can you eat on a tortilla?” Pati replied, “You can taco anything!” And that was the last word.
After the show, there were door prizes. I didn’t win, but I did get Pati to sign my copy of her new book, Mexican Today. I’ll be reviewing it here soon.
After the program, we needed lunch. We didn’t have to go far; there were several food trucks lined up across the street. A Jamaican truck had an oxtail platter special. One to split between the two of us, a Jamaican ginger beer, and a picnic table in Rock Creek Park – a perfect coda to a foodie morning.