So I went on the Today Show yesterday to talk about some themes you know well by now — deconstructing meals, picky eaters, my Trickle-Down Theory of Dinner (see page 10!) and of course, the book itself. I’ve known about this segment for about three months now — my publisher called me with the news while I was watching soccer practice — and if I were a certain kind of person I suppose I would have been broadcasting this news all over the world, posting it on my events page and facebook, tweeting from the green room and all that, but the truth is: I was kinda terrified about the whole Live TV thing. To the point where over the past few months I’ve been dividing my life into two distinct eras: “Before Today Show” and “After Today Show.” (As in, That Matthew Sweet concert is After Today Show, so I will really truly be able to enjoy it.) In situations like these — admittedly, very lucky situations like these — my default mode is usually pathological denial, to pretend like it’s not going to happen, until the very last minute when I’m forced to admit I have to somehow rise to the occasion. But here’s the thing about TV: You have to actually practice like crazy if you don’t want to dissolve into a puddle of anxiety or, in my case, freeze on the spot. (Ask anyone I went to college with: This actually happened to me in classrooms all the time.) And so I have been carrying around little index cards with me for weeks with all the possible questions that Natalie Morales (Natalie Morales!) would throw at me. You know, toughies like: Why did you write this book? Why is family dinner so important to you? Does takeout count? Why on earth do you write down what you have for dinner every night? What do your kids think of all this?
My kids were much more focused on their own days yesterday — my third grader had a field trip to the Bronx Zoo; and my fourth grader was getting her Field Day team assignment, which, trust me, is about eight thousand times more exciting than watching her mom prepare a salmon salad on TV — but the two of them took the time to make an index card for me that helped more than the other 25 combined. I carried it with me to the studio and here is what it said:
Remember the Brady Bunch episode where Marcia gets over her Driver’s Test jitters by picturing the instructor in his underwear? That strategy really stuck with Phoebe — she said she used it herself recently at her fourth grade concert — and I laughed every time I read her little reminder. (Side note: Remember, we watched at least three or four Brady Bunch seasons on our long road trip last year and I highly highly recommend you do the same, long road trip or not.)
My friend Charlie (as in The Power of Habit Charlie, who you might say has been around the media block) took the train up to see me from Brooklyn last month so he could do his best impersonation of Matt Lauer at my kitchen counter and dish out some much-needed media advice. Abby, who loves nothing more than pretend play, was so entertained by this craziness and seemed to have absorbed all his pointers. At least that’s the only theory I can think of for how she came up with this “Things not to do and do” list. In spite of my nerves, I did manage to follow her last, most important order. If I can’t do that, man oh man, I’ve got to ask myself: What is the point?
Thanks to everyone for the nice notes about the segment, and below is the salmon salad recipe for those of you who just want to know what to make for dinner already! I think my favorite part of the whole experience was a few minutes after we wrapped when Natalie Morales walked out of the studio and, while gobbling up a big bowl of my salad, told me This is delicious! It was 10:00 in the morning.
About 35 minutes
For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
Squeeze of fresh lemon or lime
1/2 cup olive oil
For the salmon:
1 salmon fillet (about 1 pound)
Salt and pepper
4 potatoes (yukon gold, red or blue if you can find them), peeled and quartered
2 ears corn
Handful of thin green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
5 to 6 scallions (white and light green parts), chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Make vinaigrette: Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, sugar, lemon juice and oil and set aside.
Make salmon: Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper. Roast in a foil-lined baking dish for 15 minutes. (If you prefer to grill the fish, brush with a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of honey and cook over medium-hot coals, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.)
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until a knife slices through them with no resistance, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes to a large serving bowl. Add the corn to the same pot of water. Boil for 4 minutes. Remove to a cutting board, allow to cool, slice off the kernels and add to the serving bowl. Add beans to the same pot of water and cook for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the serving bowl. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, scallions and cilantro to the bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette and serve.