PBS Three Wishes

I was a very shy little girl but when it came to “show and tell” I forgot all about myself in my eagerness to share an exciting discovery. It was hands down my favorite subject in school.Many years later, shortly before the Cake Bible was born, Barbara Kafka, renowned cookbook author and food editor of Vogue magazine, took me to lunch. Barbara is known for her sharp wit and generous support of people starting out in the food profession. Toward the end of the meal, she asked me: "What are your three wishes?" Not realizing that she was playing fairy godmother, and delighting in what I thought to be a hypothetical exercise, I started off with my biggest wish at the time: to have a baby. She looked a bit startled but quickly regained her composure saying: "I can't help you there; but I can tell you that when you're so busy you can't do another thing, that's when it will happen.” Then she prompted me for my second wish. "I want to write a cookbook" I said without hesitation. That's easy replied Barbara. I'll introduce you to my editor. My heart soared. “And your third wish” asked Barbara? I took the leap and dared to reply: "I want to have my own TV show." To my total shock Barbara’s dry response was: “you and der ganse velt!” When she saw my quizzical expression she translated it for me as: you and everyone else or literally: you and the whole world! She misunderstood my questioning look. Growing up with a Yiddish speaking grandmother I knew what the expression meant, I just wasn't expecting to hear it come out of so sophisticated a mouth! I will always be grateful to Barbara. I learned from this experience that people can help just by encouraging you to give voice to your ideas and to put them out into the universe. I am now in the process of fulfilling my first and second wish with my ninth cookbook, but not in that order. These books, and the many people who follow my recipes and share their ideas and responses with me, have become my children.

As for the third wish, thanks to Marjorie Poore, brilliant producer of food shows for PBS, in 2003 I got the show to my tell -- my 13 part series "Baking Magic with Rose." This was my golden opportunity to demonstrate many of the most important techniques in cake, pie, pastry and bread baking. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for as you may get it! The complexities and challenges of producing this show were unimaginable. First we had to find an affordable location. My extraordinary friend and culinary archivist Barbara Kuck persuaded her dear friends, Susan and Bob Jasse to loan us their magnificent kitchen at Alyson's Orchard in Walpole New Hampshire. Another dear and generous friend, Madeleine Morris, who is a professional caterer in Las Vegas, offered to come and cook for the entire crew during the week of production. Renowned chocolatier, Larry Burdick, allowed us to borrow his top assistant (imagine having your makeup done by a chocolatier who understands cocoa butter!) And my beloved husband Elliott, in an act of supreme moral support, took the week off from work and did what is most difficult for him to do: he sat silently and monitored the entire production process. There were untold behind the scenes activities and sagas, too long to report now, but here are the main bullet points: selecting and preparing all the recipes, amassing an entire baker’s kitchen in triplicate (both equipment and ingredients), preparing all the setups from the mis en place of ingredients to various stages of the finished product in more than triplicate, choosing wardrobe for 13 shows, not to mention looking relaxed and refreshed when one is anything but. And who would've guessed that there would be a heat wave in June in New Hampshire! Or that the audio would pick up the sound of the air conditioner so that we couldn’t leave it on during filming. And I'm not going to delve too deeply into the nervous breakdown of one of the prep people or the psychotic episodes of another that drove her to it, made life difficult for all of us, and lasted throughout the entire week (ignoring him was the greatest acting job of my life--the Lee Kraft video was merely my dress-rehearsal!).When I frantically e-mailed the friend who had recommended the saboteur his response was: "He must have forgotten his meds." At first I thought he was kidding. He was not. But when all is said and done it was worth it. No matter how painstakingly one writes, or photographs step-by-step techniques, nothing comes close to video. This PBS series is the icing on my cake, my dream come true, my show and tell grown-up. It ran on PBS stations around the country for three years and here it is now, thanks to the persistence and effort of Hector Wong, for those of you who may have missed it. The first show will post tomorrow and the remaining 13 parts will post once a week thereafter. (The first show has been divided into two parts so although the series was 13 parts it will be posted as 14.) Epilogue: A year later, when taking a walk in another city, I ran into the trouble-making saboteur! He didn’t notice me—he was too busy with the road work that was, evidently, his new profession for which surely he was better suited.