How Ruth Changed My Life

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Nearly 13 years ago I received a phone call from Jennifer Ferro, then Assistant General Manager of KCRW.  I’d been an occasional guest on Good Food when Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (The Two Hot Tamales at the time) were the hosts of the show.  Jennifer was calling to ask if I would take over hosting duties.  The “Hot” ladies were really hot and needed a break.

I was a different person than I am now.  Shy, insecure and amazed that Jennifer and Ruth thought I could do the job.  I wasn’t a “celebrity chef”, but rather just a kind of food geek chef and cookbook author who loved reading about all aspects of food.  I knew that Ruth came from the same kind of background I did so I thought that maybe my somewhat baroque interest in food would finally have a home.

As I stumbled through my first months of interviews I tried never to make eye contact with Ruth. If I encountered her in the hallway I would avert my eyes and try to shrink myself like a modest postulant.  She is supremely confident with a laser-like intelligence and I was convinced that if I entered her zone of consciousness she would quickly realize that a horrible mistake had been made.

But then, something wonderful happened.  I overheard her say to someone that she never heard anyone talk about food using four syllable words before.  Yes, I wasn’t a “celeb”, but I was where I belonged, a food intellectual in an environment where high discourse, even about food was valued. Ruth continued to amaze and intimidate me for years but that snippet of overheard conversation changed my life.