Clash of the Grandmas: Part 1

Someone once said that serendipity was finding something good without looking for it.

That’s what happened to me a few months ago. I was busily chopping onions for my pasta sauce while watching The Food Network . The phone rang.An unfamiliar voice said, “Hello, Sandra, we’re casting for a Food Network show entitled, Clash of the Grandmas and you were recommended by someone.”

I glanced warily at the phone. 

“Really?”  

“Yes, we’d like to talk with you”

“Well, okay. I guess.”

“So, as I was saying, we’re casting a new show, Clash of the Grandmas.”

 I hesitate, silently.What pops into mind is the Food Network show, Chopped. I can just see them asking me to create a dessert that includes peeled lamb's head, black octopus ink and sunflower seeds. That’s definitely not my cup of tea. But I don’t say anything.

As if reading my mind, he continues, “Don’t worry, it’s not going to be a show with crazy ingredients.”He then asks me to tell him a bit about my interest in cooking.

“I began quite early.My mother was an excellent cook. I sat on the kitchen counter and watched her cook every night, absorbing her instinct for flavors and unique food pairings.When I was older, I watched every one of Julia Child’s TV shows and my learning curve spiraled upwards. 

“Later, I studied with Jacque Pepin, ( I still make his chocolate soufflé), Liddy Marshall, and Barbara Kafka, who  introduced me to strawberries seasoned with balsamic vinegar.Don’t wince, it’s delicious.

I also studied Italian cooking with Guiliano Bugialli in Florence.

That was a divine experience, but I must admit that I failed pasta making. Not once, but twice. Juliano could not believe my inability to grasp the basic essentials. His attempts to teach me how to make pasta evolved into a live hysterical demonstration reminiscent of Desi and Lucy.

The casting director and I proceeded to talk for about an hour. All about food, my life, my family, my painting. He then asked if I could come to their offices so that they could interview me in person.  I figured, “Why not?”  So, the next day after getting my hair blown out, I went to the production company’s offices where I was videotaped as more questions were asked about my life and cooking experience.

A few silent weeks passed until the phone rang again. “We would like to do a Skype interview with you and could you please prepare one of your favorite dishes?“

OK, I get my hair blown out again and dash off to shop for the best shrimp and produce I can find.I decided to make scampi served on top of orzo pasta with roasted tomatoes, basil and parmesan cheese.

Back home, I precisely chopped the parsley, cleaned the shrimp, roasted the bread for fresh bread crumbs, and grated the cheese. (No green box of parmesan cheese for me.)

The plan is to Skype with me at 4PM.I’m right on schedule and all prepared to start grilling when my outdoor grill fails to ignite. Yikes! A good cook knows how to improvise, so I decide to broil the scampi in my oven. I’m right on schedule when the studio calls to tell me that there’s been a delay; problems at the studio. OK, I can deal with that, but then there’s another delay and I have visions of my scampi decaying into a soggy jumble.

Finally, we connect.I again start talking about my cooking and then present my scampi to them so that they can see that I can prepare a dish which is appealing and photogenic.After more pleasantries, we hang up as I wonder what comes next?

Another week goes by and again, another lovely person from the production company asks if she could speak with me for 40 minutes. or so. I never thought I was such a sparkling conversationalist, but an hour and a half later, we were still talking. You might ask what we talked about?The truth is that I’ll be darned if I can remember!

Weeks go by and nothing happens. Then, I get another call and this time they want to interview my daughter and our grandchildren.At this point, I felt as though I was being vetted by the CIA.

Following those interviews, once again the weeks go by. I’m not sure what is happening or not happening but I know that my appetite for appearing on the show was growing. Finally, I get the long-awaited call confirming that I will be on the show and they will start shooting in a week! 

I hope this isn’t a build up to a let down, but I can’t share ANY of the details of the actual production.I was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement which could penalize me for $750,000.00 if I so much as utter a word about what went on during the actual videotaping of the show.So, please tune in or set your DVR to the Food Network on Sunday, November 27th at 10pm PT/ET and I promise I’ll share some of the fun details after the show airs.

Clash of the Grandmas “Granny Family Food Fight” – Episode Premieres Sunday, November 27th at 10pm ET/PTShow hashtag: #ClashoftheGrandmas, Network handle: @FoodNetwork

Three generations join forces in a special family edition, beginning with four grandmas cooking up a pot pie that reflects their heritage with help from their son or daughter. Next, they must make a brilliant brunch featuring the colors selected by their grandchildren via video message. Then, the final two grandmas must turn peanut butter and jelly flavors into a family-pleasing dessert worthy of the $10,000 prize.

Host: Cameron Mathison

Competitors: Saba Abed (Richmond, Virginia), Aliyah “Mama Pain” Najm (Atlanta, Georgia), Sandy Sallin (Beverly Hills, California), Blanca Simpson (Memphis, Tennessee)

Judges: Sharone Hakman, Aarti Sequeira, Jake Smollett