Lessons Learned, Quotable Quotes

A Year of Change: Taking Risks and Eating Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Welcome to Mom’s Life Ponderings!

This year will forever go down in my personal history as The Year of Change – a year of firsts and a year of experiencing new adventures. This year, I changed jobs, my youngest child will be starting middle school soon, my oldest will be starting (drum roll please) college, and I finished writing a novel based on the stories my father told me about his growing up years (no literary agent yet, but I figure there’s no cause for discouragement until rejection # 65 – I’m only on #12).

And then there’s this other new adventure – writing this blog. I am hoping that other moms out there are also experiencing new challenges and might like to share in these adventures and the learning that comes from them.

Of course, all of these “firsts” involve some amount of risk – something I am not naturally drawn to; but they do provide some amount of excitement. Which reminds me of the time….

I had been watching several seasons of the Food Network channel’s The Next Food Network Star. The show involves 12 contestants from around the US facing all kinds of difficult cooking challenges with one final contestant getting his or her own show on the network. I loved the show and I thought it would be really cool to audition for it. The only problem is that I have very little courage. Enter my friend, Gail. She’ll try anything.

I thought we could audition as a team. This had been done the first season and the pair, Dan & Steve, actually won. Honestly, I didn’t really care about winning and getting our own show – I just thought the whole competition looked like fun, the free room and board in NYC would be neat, and we’d have a great story to tell our friends.

There was a casting call in Atlanta and we were convinced that once they saw the chemistry between the two of us we’d be a shoe in. We tried to think of a way to have an edge over the competition so the night before the audition, we made my yummy Triple Chocolate Cupcakes (see Recipes) and pita chips and Gail’s tasty salsa and put them in 3 gift bags. We also put together a little cookbook that contained 15 of your own recipes.

The audition started at 9 am. When we got there at 1:30, it was clear that we’d be there awhile. The room was packed! The girl giving out the numbers looked at us kind of weird when we said we wanted the same number as we were going in as a team. (Had she not seen Season 1?) We were number 783. We figured there were over 1,000 contestants.

We didn’t mind the wait. We rarely get the opportunity to just sit and people watch. There were all kinds of folks there. Several wore their chef coats. Someone was in military fatigues. And there were some women highlighting some of their more physical assets (if you know what I mean).

A real chef was sitting a row behind us and, I guess out of pure boredom, he decided to engage the “home cooks” in conversation. (That’s what he actually called us and by the way he said it we couldn’t decide if that was a good thing.) It was obvious that he was a real  chef because “Chef” was embroidered on his gray chef’s coat and because he listed off all the restaurants he had worked in from California to Atlanta. He also causally mentioned that he had trained at Le Cordon Bleu – the real one in France. He told us about the dishes he had created and the famous people for whom he had cooked.

Talking with Pierre was okay for a while but he was starting to get on my nerves. We wondered if he was trying to distract us – get us riled and off our game. He started asking us questions like, “What kind of white sauce do you make with pork?” I looked at Gail. She looked at me. And then I said I had to use the restroom.

Finally, at 7:30 pm, our number was called. When a new girl told Gail to move to a seat in front of the audition room, I pointed at my number and said, “we’re together.” She had a puzzled look on her face. (Seriously! Who were these people and were Dan & Steve really that forgettable?) When we went in, there was only one chair. Not a problem. We shared it – one cheek each. This would demonstrate our teamwork from the get go. The casting agent asked us what kind of experience we had. I answered that we both had been married over 20 years, so that was at least 40 years of cooking experience. She looked about  20 and I don’t think that was the answer she was looking for. Gail told her that we had been tennis partners for over 15 years and in Atlanta the food eaten at these matches was just as important as the tennis. (Gail was right about this. The problem was we never really contributed to the great eats at our matches. Sure, we had great plans, high ambition, but when it came down to it we’d just show up with brownies from a box and chips and salsa.) Then she asked us about our culinary point of view. We had practiced this. Together, in perfect rhythm, we explained that we knew busy moms needed recipes and cooking strategies to feed their hungry families quickly and economically.  She smiled at this. We gave her our goodies in the gift bags and our recipes. She said she was starving. We were soooooo in. The whole audition lasted about 3 minutes. We left on a high knowing for sure we’d get a callback.

However, no call came. We couldn’t believe it. Had they not seen our obvious charisma and talent? (Okay, we did wonder if the cupcakes had held up for 24 hours in the gift bags and if the salsa really should have been kept refrigerated.) Oh well, we knew we were good and we didn’t need some stinking show for validation.

A few months later, we watched the opening episode of  The Next Food Network Star. Some guy named Herb was there from Atlanta. (Perhaps we should have auditioned under the names Salt and Pepper.) Gail finally came clean and admitted that she had never watched the show. After the first competition where the contestants had to make a meal out of a few odd ingredients, Gail said, “Thank goodness we didn’t get on that show!” What? Who was this person? The Gail I knew would never back down from a challenge. I told her we would have figured it out and come out smelling like a rose – make that rosemary. She finally agreed and said we should try it again next year. Sure. But first we might need to start actually making homemade dishes for our tennis matches. Maybe something that requires a white sauce.

Lesson Learned: Refusing to take risks is possibly the biggest risk you’ll ever take. By not taking a chance on that different, scary adventure you run the risk of not becoming the person you are fully meant to be. And…disappointment is ALWAYS more palatable when it’s served with a side of chocolate cupcakes.

Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the  fear of failure. ~ Jack Lemmon (in Katie Couric’s The Best Advice I Ever Got)

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

16 thoughts on “A Year of Change: Taking Risks and Eating Triple Chocolate Cupcakes”

  1. Dana, I am crying because I am laughing so hard. That was a very long and exhuasting day but I will cherish the memory forever. We have had many adventures together and I look forward to many more. BTW, I love your book. I was up all night reading it. You are a natural story teller. Love ya!-Gail

  2. I had never heard this story before! You guys are so crazy and I cant wait to hear more! I have another show in mind for you guys to go out for!

  3. Dana,
    I agree with Leigh. You are a natural writer. I laughed out loud several times! Thanks so much for sharing this side of you with me. Looking forward to reading more…


  4. Dana,
    This is really good. You should have done this long ago. you have a lot of material. You don’t even have to make any of it up.


  5. Dana,
    This is so good, I can’t wait to read your book. It will be required reading for our annual beach trip.


  6. Dana,
    I came across your blog via your partner and friend, Gail. I must say that I was hooked from the very first sentence, and by the time I got to the cheek sharing part, I was laughing out loud. You really do have a talent for writing, and I look forward to reading your book.

  7. Oh for crying out loud, that chef threw you and Gail a trick question!!! EVERYBODY knows you don’t serve white sauce with pork!!! You always serve either Corky’s or Rendevous BBQ sauce with pork (pulled, of course). 🙂 Oh well, you’ll get ’em next time.

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