If you’ve been watching the Food Network lately, you may have seen a teaser for a new series called Ask Aida. Its premise is that home cooks pose a question to culinary expert Aida Mollenkamp — how do you make a roux? Quick weeknight supper? That sort of thing. Then Aida goes on to reveal her secrets to making the dish/technique a success. Word on the street has it that my likeness appears briefly in a commercial for the show preview of upcoming episodes (thanks, Yvo, for the tip!). Let me tell you why.
A friend of mine happens to be one of the show’s producers. When they were soliciting short videos from normal folk, asking Aida their culinary quandaries, he suggested I put one together. So my friend Matt and I broke out the camera, the asparagus, and got up on his roof to shoot this (in my humble opinion, hysterical) video.
Problem was, my question was “too vague.” (If you didn’t watch the vid, I ask her what type of foods are known aphrodisiacs so as to seduce a cooking-in date.) After some discussion, long story short, I accepted the task of making a poor lasagna so that Aida could ameliorate the problem with it. This time, the producers would be coming over to shoot.
The specific dilemma I had to demonstrate was lasagna so soupy that its layers slid apart when put on a plate. Now, I’ve never had this particular problem myself, but I can appreciate the fact that many home cooks might. (I’m a fan of using no-boil egg pasta sheets, which seem to eradicate this issue — or, when time allows, fresh pasta sheets, as in my Breakfast Lasagna.) So it was a real challenge figuring out just how I was going to create this visually off-putting entree. I asked around. Karol suggested I dump three cups of water over the whole thing before it went into the oven. Others insisted I over-boil the lasagna noodles. I ended up doing the latter, making a watery tomato sauce, and covering the casserole with foil while baking. Success! — er, I mean, failure! It worked out perfectly horribly.
We also shot me going through the motions of making the lasagna for the episode. To do that I swapped the “bad” lasagna out of the casserole dish and layered a fairly good lasagna into the same dish. At the end of the day, I had made two great big trays of lasagna. Did I mention that I live alone? Right, so the producers ate some of the bad, soupy lasagna after the last cut, and liked it so much that they even took some home with them. Then, Matt came over and we ate up almost all of the “good” lasagna.
The episode I appear in, titled “Lasagna,” is set to air Saturday, October 11th at 12:30 EST. I don’t get cable but I’ll be sure to be sitting TV-side somewhere, with a great big lasagna-filled party of friends.
But enough about me — I so love the concept for this show and its practical, can-do attitude on foods that people find fussy to make at home. I also think it’s neat that it incorporates home video and real people (even if my ultimate segment was slightly staged). In this technology-crazed day in age when the average Joe may know how to make a video sooner than he can scramble an egg, why not? Oh, and you can still submit your cooking question in video, or by regular email, too.
The second episode of the show airs this Saturday. I can’t wait to see what Aida makes of my lasagna later on.
With that question still lingering in the air, I can’t help but wonder another one: This is the first time my face will appear on the Food Network, or any television network, for that matter. Will it be the last?