April 1, 2022

David Page - Journalist, Creator of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Author - Food Americana

David Page - Journalist, Creator of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Author - Food Americana

We talk to David about his meetings with Mu'ammar Al-Qadhdhāfī, Yasser Arafat and walking through the Berlin Wall when it opened. We discuss thoughts on food and culture, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, and his new book Food Americana.

Transcript

Disclaimer: Unedited AI Transcription

  

Larry (00:06):

I'm Larry Barsh. And you are listening to specifically for seniors, the podcast for those of us in the remember when generation

Larry (00:25):

Today on specifically for seniors, we're excited to have David Page. David is a broadcast journalist veteran from NBC and ABC news. He's had breakfast with Yaser, AFA and viewed more Caffe walked through the Berlin wall when it opened more recently, David transitioned to food television and produced dins drive-ins and dives on the food network. And he received two Emmys for his work on the show, his new book, food Americana, the remark people and incredible stories behind America's favorite dishes is available on Amazon. David, welcome to specifically for seniors. It's great to have you on

David Page (01:13):

Well, thank you very much for asking. It's great to be here.

Larry (01:17):

I cannot imagine what it would be like sitting down with AFA Kadafi breakfast with AFA

David Page (01:26):

Arafat it was kind of funny. Cause at the time we, we were gonna interview him. And so there's this big ceremonial breakfast with me, my correspondent, our crew, him and a bunch of his boys. It's a long table. And this was back when, um, he was still classified as a terrorist. He had not transitioned into the role of politician, uh, which in my mind, doesn't ignore his terrorist pass, but that's for a whole other conversation. Anyway, um, back then to, uh, do business with any of the, uh, rat Palestinians, uh, there was to be no reference to Israel. Israel didn't exist. They would not say the word. Uh, the closest they would come would be to refer to the Zionist entity. So in fact, if you traveled that area, you had two passports, one for Israel, one for the Arab world, so that you wouldn't accidentally get a, is Israeli stamp and then not be allowed into any Arab countries. But so it's like three in the morning. That's when you get to eat with him and we're all at this large table and people are talking and there's this there's that. And then the soundman, it's always the soundman, the soundman, his eyes brightened, as he sees a bowl of fruit in the middle of the table. And he bursts out with, oh my gosh, blood oranges. I haven't had a blood orange since I was in Israel.

David Page (02:52):

At which point, remember the EF hut and commercials, you know, the entire room goes, okay. It felt like 10 minutes. I'm sure it was like three seconds of complete silence. And then the conversation resumed as if he had never opened his mouth. So that was breakfast with AFE

Larry (03:09):

And Couscous with Mo Caffe.

David Page (03:12):

Now Mo didn't show for that. See, we were, the international press Corps was waiting to interview him and to keep us occupied. They had us in the ceremonial 10th. They sent us out a COOs COO meal, which was lovely. I eventually did get to interview him. I was the first person to interview him after us forces blew up his house. And I was given a, um, a tour of his house, uh, which included among other things, the fact that he had around, um, U Hefner bed with what looked like stereo controls in the, um, side part of it, you know, it was kind of like a, a leaning area. And the whole thing was done in sort of blue velvet team, got in a other amusing story here too, after the serious interview, uh, on all things political and international. Uh, and by the way, he spoke perfect English.

David Page (04:10):

He understood perfect English, but for political reasons, he would often insist on a translator. So we had been doing the interview through a translator and I, I was done with substance. So I, I came to my last question that New York post, um, fed presumably by the CIA had reported recently on their front page that Kadafi liked to cross dress. And, and this is no aspersion to anyone's gender choices. It's just something they did back then to, to take him off that he liked to cross-dres and was using a lot of drugs, uh, and the, uh, the post mocked up a picture of him in a dress and heels and put it on their front page. So as my last question in the interview, I said to him, uh, I said to him, the New York post, uh, recently published a story with a picture of you wearing a dress and high heels and quoting the CIA is saying that you like to wear women's clothing and you're using a lot of drugs. Could you comment on that? And his interpreter looked at me with a look in his eyes, like, I'm not gonna say that don't get killed, but Kadafi spoke English. So he burst out laughing, and then he blamed it all on a Zionist plot. But yeah, so that was, that was my, uh, Kadafi interview.

Larry (05:35):

And then you walked through the Berlin wall when it opened.

David Page (05:39):

Yeah, we had been, uh, I, I had been covering the year European. I actually moved from Frankfurt to Budapest to set up, um, a center of operations cuz we knew that the, um, east European revolutions were coming, communism was collapsing. Um, so I covered, um, most, if not all of the revolutions, uh, um, my, my, my memory's going, I'm not sure if I actually covered east Germany before east Berlin. Anyway, um, I ran coverage in, uh, Jack Slovakia. The, the, uh, the revolution in which actually was, was a shooting war, um, and ended up, uh, in east Berlin, the powers that they had decided that we should originate a nightly news broadcast with Broka from the Berlin wall, because there had been an awful lot of, um, attempts to use east Germany as a transit point to get out of communist territories. Uh, so we set up to do nightly news that night and we had our big 10 K BR our big lights up and all of this.

David Page (06:51):

And shortly before the newscast started because you know, the six or seven hours difference in time. So we were closing in on mid night, a cameraman comes running up to me in the trailer and he says, uh, they're coming across the bridge in the British sector. I said, yeah, right. He opened his camera. He opened the, the view finder and, and showed me video of hoards of east Berlins crossing UNT into the west. Earlier that day, an Easter German official had kind of flippantly said, anyone wants to leave, can leave. And nobody believed that it was real, but in fact it was real and suddenly, um, east Berlin was emptying into west Berlin. Uh, and we, we, we did the newscast from, from front of the Brandenburg gate that night amid all sorts of hoopla. All those Germans you saw on the wall were there because I ran to the wall with a ladder so that my crew could get up and shoot down.

David Page (07:50):

And I immediately had the ladder taken away from me by the crowd and they were going up and down. Um, but it, I don't know, two or three in the morning. And I had been working, you know, in the east block for years. So I was used to going to east Berlin through checkpoint Charlie, which is the American sector. And it was like in the spy movies, they, they would, um, run the, uh, the mirror under your car and they'd open the trunk and try to find whoever you had hidden in there not going in. And this night there was no one, there, there, there were no guards. I mean, I just walked through checkpoint Charlie with my crew, into east Berlin in the middle of the night. It was the most surreal experience I'd had. Um, and it was a, it was a remarkable time.

Larry (08:38):

And even more surreal that walk through checkpoint, Charlie led to your interest in food.

David Page (08:45):

Well, it was one of many things. Uh, my interest in food, I mean, I'd always liked to eat. I I've, I've never been thin, but I didn't really develop, um, an intellectual interest in food or a fascination with food until I moved overseas. I had never expected to live outside of the United States, never occurred to me, had done nothing to prepare for the possibility until I was offered a spot in the London bureau, uh, uh, from which one covers L uh, Europe, African the middle east. And I then moved from there to the Frankfurt bureau and then Budapest, but it was all the same thing I had never expected to, to live internationally. And all of a sudden I'm going from country to country, uh, that I know nothing about trying to learn on the fly. And it occurred to the me pretty early that food is a gateway to culture that, that there's so much to learn about a people about a country, about its history, its economy, uh, its mindset by sharing the food, especially sharing it with people from those countries and, and just discussing it with them.

David Page (09:56):

And that began my fascination, um, with food, which, uh, obviously amplified or was distilled into diners drive-ins and dives when I started that. And, and then most recently into my book, food Americana, which were as my attempt to do in America, what I had done in, in other countries, which is figure out what's the cuisine and what does it mean? And, uh, it turns out that there is, you know, people think of American cuisine as fast food that's yes, that's a tiny part of it, but more to the point as a country of immigrants, we built a cuisine of our own, um, by appropriating various, um, elements of other cuisines of other countries and cultures, and then modifying them to fit our tastes and our available ingredients. And as with any, um, cuisine, then it, along the way,

Larry (10:59):

Let's get back for a minute to D's drive-ins and dives. How did that come about?

David Page (11:07):

Um, by accident? I had, uh, decided it was time to leave network news because I didn't like the direction it was going, not fake news, not bias, just, um, it was becoming more, um, entertainmenty and more ratings responsive. And, uh, I figured it was time to go. So I ended up, uh, uh, taking a, uh, a position with, of all things, a home shopping network that like about 10 seconds. I, I couldn't do that. So I opened my own production company and proceeded to starve. Nobody was buying what I was selling. So I, uh, called a friend of mine, Al Roker, who had worked with me on the weekend today show when I ran that show and, uh, Al had a production company and I said, Hey, uh, I'm starving. You got new work. He said, sure, I'm doing a lot of stuff for the food network.

David Page (12:03):

Why don't I subcontract some of that to you? So I started doing things for him, uh, which got me familiar with the food network work. We agreed that for me to make real money, I, I, I couldn't subcontract I'd have to pitch my own stuff. And I began pitching the food network on my own and getting roundly rejected time after time. Now the good news was, I at least had an in having worked on stuff for them so that they would take my calls. There was a particular programming executive who would talk to me and say, no, no, no, one day I'm on the phone with her. And I had done a, a history of diners, uh, through Al's company. And one day after she turns down a bunch of my proposals, she says, look, don't you have anything about diner? And I said, oh yeah, I'm developing a show, all diners drive-ins and dives.

David Page (12:55):

And I told her all about it. And she said, uh, you know, that sounds good. We have a development meeting Tuesday, get me a writeup on Monday for a one hour special. And, um, I, I was delighted cuz it was the first, um, possible, um, inclination in, I might be able to sell them something. But when I got off the phone, I had a lot of work to do, cuz no, I was not developing a show called diners drive-ins and dives. I made the name up on the spot and that was late on a Thursday or Friday. So I spent the weekend calling around, getting enough information to pitch an hour and I pitched an hour shortly thereafter. They picked it up as a special. And when it rated surprisingly well, surprisingly to them, not me and the, uh, major production companies that they had been looking to to provide an ongoing, uh, primetime series for, um, uh, gey who had won their food network star contest. When those production companies came in with disappointing proposals, they bit the bullet and uh, bought a short first season of diners. Um, I did the first 11 seasons as executive producer before moving on they're now in season four. So, uh, it turned out okay.

Larry (14:21):

I would say so. So GE Fier came along, uh, from the food network.

David Page (14:28):

Yeah, the whole idea for them. And I didn't realize it when I first made my pitch. He was the second, the winner of their an annual food network star contest back when they still thought that they could manufacture stars through that contest. I don't think anyone else after guy ever became a star, but, um, guy certainly did, um, with frankly some assistance from me and the show I created, but the fact is they, um, when they said let's do the special, I said, do you want to talk about talent? They said, no, no. We want you to use this guy guy Fietti he won this contest. Well, I, I didn't the food network. So I had no idea who he was and I had no idea what the contest was. So I Googled him and immediately thought to myself, I'm screwed. Cause what came up was a, a cartoon. I mean this kind of man child in spikey hair and flip flops and short pants saying things like money. And I thought I'm dead it, but it turned out that he had, while he was extremely green inexperience, he had the most natural television talent of anyone I've ever worked with. And we were able to teach him a whole lot pretty quickly. And his innate ability was huge. Uh, and um, the rest was history.

Larry (15:53):

What's the process of going through selecting places

David Page (15:58):

To, well, I don't know what, I don't know what they do today, uh, in my, and have you ever read anything by William Goldman adventures in the screen trade? Perhaps he's a, he was a two time Oscar winning screenwriter, massive impact on the business. And he wrote a book about, um, how things happen in, in Hollywood and, and Goldman's rule was no one knows anything. So I started, I kind of had to invent this from the start and as Goldman also points out the, the bottom on any production of any kind is budget, how much do you have to spend? We did not have enough money to go scout places. So I created a, a process by which my people, uh, on the ground, back in the home office would scour every publication, any town we were thinking about going to, um, call the food writers or food influencers, influencers in, in that town at the time, there were really not social media influencers and talk to restaurant tours.

David Page (17:12):

Uh, if you knew someone in that town whose view you trusted you talk to them to try to narrow down a group of restaurants that might meet our very high, uh, bar, then talk to the owner of that restaurant in great detail. Um, and, and, you know, things had to be made from scratch. Uh, if you sold pancake and you used a mix that wasn't good enough for us. Um, and through a series of Q and A's, uh, they would then come to me with the possibles. I would send them back with more questions. We would narrow it down to four or five places per trip. And again, as part of the budget conversation, we tried to find locations that were close to the intersection of more than one state, so that as we laid out the, uh, the segments over the course of the season, we had geographical diversity. The, um, we, we did very well at this in terms of our process because only 5% of the locations when guy and the crew arrived, he would call up and say, this, this isn't good enough. And then I would just say, well, politely walk out. Um, now I never told the food network that when they found, they thought I was crazy, cause I took the financial hit. But, um, that's what you have to do to keep, keep the standards up.

Larry (18:38):

My wife and I one experience with, uh, food in a restaurant. We were in Italy many years ago and we went to a, a restaurant called Alfredo's And Alfredo came out and served us feta, Alfredo and asked if we knew his friend, Jack par, cause we from America.

David Page (19:06):

Well, I believe Alfredo was invented or modified greatly in the over there. I don't believe it has cream in it, but I could be wrong.

Larry (19:14):

I don't remember. It was a while ago.

David Page (19:16):

Was it good?

Larry (19:18):

It was very good.

David Page (19:19):

I've had many a meal in Italy. It's hard to find a bad one.

Larry (19:23):

Uh, yeah, my, uh, my grandchildren are in Italy on their junior break.

David Page (19:29):

Oh, that's wonderful way there

Larry (19:31):

Florence. Oh,

David Page (19:33):

Ho are they eating fungi? Portini

Larry (19:36):

They're eating everything. I get pictures every so often we

David Page (19:40):

Were, I surprised my wife didn't tell her where we were going on our honeymoon. We went to Italy once we were on the plane, we opened all the stuff. And I explained to her that one of my FA we were going to Florence in Venice. I ex explained to her that one of my favorite dishes in Florence was something called fungi Portini which are these, um, dinner plate size mushrooms that are treated as if they're steak and they're fantastic. And my wife said, that sounds terrible. And then when we got there, she pretty much ate the entire region out of fungi port. So

Larry (20:15):

Getting onto your book and as long as we're on pasta, sure. Your book had me in the preface.

David Page (20:23):

Oh, thank

Larry (20:24):

You. Talked about spaghetti with ketchup. And I thought I was the only one.

David Page (20:30):

Well, maybe it's a Jewish thing. I don't know my, my grandmother and I use her in the preface as, as kind of a microcosm of how we've developed a cuisine of our own. My grandmother, a, a refugee from the antisemitism and violence of Eastern Europe came to the United States, wanted my dog just came to say, hi, wanted to fit in, um, to her way of thinking spaghetti, even though it's Italian to her, it was an American dish, but she made it her way, which meant frying some onions and ketchup and pasta in, in a, in a skillet and delivering it to me and explaining that this was Jewish spaghetti. What it was was awful, but, uh, there's so much of a message in it.

Larry (21:19):

Well, yeah, but that's gourmet spaghetti with

David Page (21:22):

Ketchup. Oh yeah. It was great.

Larry (21:23):

My mother's was just spaghetti with ketchup.

David Page (21:26):

I oh, well see, but I think this is interesting. I think, I don't think my grandmother used Hines. I think it was Del Monty. I don't know why I remember that, but it, it tastes different than Hines.

Larry (21:41):

Uh, yeah. I'm not a ketchup expert. Eh,

David Page (21:44):

You know, originally ketchup had nothing to do with tomatoes. Ketchup was just a term for a sauce and that's why the term tomato ketchup came into being, because it was one of many kinds of sauces called ketchup. You can win it the next trivia night with that.

Larry (22:03):

I will keep them, I'm making a note right now.

David Page (22:06):

Good, good. Right that down.

Larry (22:08):

Uh, I never knew there was so much to making a quote unquote real pizza.

David Page (22:15):

Oh, it's, it's a bear man. As I point out in the book, I was allowed to, um, audit tag along, um, at, uh, Tony gem and Yi's, uh, international pizza school in San Francisco. And, uh, I was the dumb kid in the class. I mean, from the chemical knowledge, uh, required to determine the right protein content of wheat to be used for certain kind of pizza to how, how you combine it with the right proportion of water to whether you allow it to proof or not to how you, um, uh, uh, spread it out to how long you keep it in the oven. And when it's in the oven, it's not just throw it in and hope for the best. But I found on out the hard way we were making, um, uh, pizza pano, which is a very thin crust that cooks for a very brief period of time, maybe 60 seconds in a very hot oven, you've gotta find out how to turn the thing and, uh, have it land on the exact same spot. It was on if, if not, where it was, the spot it was on has cooled. So if you drop it onto a different spot, now you burn the crust it's man. It, it is, there's both science and art to making a good pizza.

Larry (23:47):

So my making it on a pizza stone and the toaster oven and doesn't cut it.

David Page (23:52):

Do you like it?

Larry (23:54):

Uh, no.

David Page (23:54):

Oh, okay. Well, I see you did great. If not, uh, you know what you can do though, you can buy, uh, Tony suggests this, uh, your local pizzeria and buy some raw Doux,

Larry (24:08):

I've done that from the grocery store here, but there's too much yeast in it or something. Try it cuffs

David Page (24:15):

Up pizzeria and ask the guy, if you can buy a couple of bowls, a dough, that's a long way home. And I obviously don't put the stove, the stone in your, your toaster oven and use your oven. Um, but we can make a decent pizza that way.

Larry (24:31):

Sounds good. Let's get onto Chinese food in America.

David Page (24:36):

Okay.

Larry (24:37):

Now everybody knows. Or at least everybody from Boston, like I am knows that Boston Chinese food in the old days was the best Chinese food anywhere in the world.

David Page (24:52):

Uh, I, I will take your word for that. Uh, having grown up in the New York area, uh, with grandparents in the New York area, even though I was in new England for much of the time, uh, I would, uh, obviously disagree with you, but, um, it's all personal opinion. It's all what you liked in your youth.

Larry (25:12):

How, how being Jewish, how did this turn from tri te Kostia all of a sudden,

David Page (25:18):

Well, here's what happened. Um, when Jewish immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe, um, they were not put to, uh, when Chinese immigrants arrived, they were not particularly welcome. And in fact were subject to massive violence on the west coast a and elsewhere. Um, but they managed to create, um, China towns in various places and open restaurants. And when the Jewish immigrants got here, they found to their surprise that one of the places they were welcomed without being made to feel like they were lesser was at Chinese restaurants because the Chinese immigrants understood what it was like to be viciously, discriminated it against, and they had no problem with Jews or, or, or with African Americans. So it became bizarrely enough, a way to, um, feel American was to go to a Chinese restaurant. Additionally, um, eating a big hunk of bacon or, or a rib really slapped Kruth in the face.

David Page (26:33):

But if you had the food diced real small and hidden under a brown sauce and some vegetables, you could justify it, it called safe. And my grandfather who was a great fan of, of new York's Chinatown, he actually claimed that during a stint, as an assistant and attorney general of New York state, he ended the tongue wars, the gang wars in Chinatown, by calling the leaders together in a threatening to deport them. It is a great story. I have never checked cause I want it to be true. Anyway, he, I, I know for a fact he was a welcome guest. He was an honored guest in, in Chinatown. Cause I would go with him when I was a young kid into all the places on mot street, the downstairs basement restaurants and his favorite dish was shrimps and lobster sauce, which he insisted was checking until the day my grandmother made the way to explain what it really was and my grandfather never ate it again. Um, but yeah, it was an Americanizing sort of thing. And it was, if you're gonna be guilty, it was apparently a lesser guilt,

Larry (27:43):

But it was the white sauce.

David Page (27:45):

Was it white sauce? Okay. Wait, a lot of those dishes that brown sauce.

Larry (27:48):

Yeah. The, the, the shrimp and lobsters, the sauce. Oh, shrimp

David Page (27:52):

And lobsters. You're right. That was the white

Larry (27:53):

Has to be in brown sauce.

David Page (27:55):

Does it?

Larry (27:56):

Yep.

David Page (27:57):

Okay. I'll

Larry (27:57):

Take you being a Bostonian. Well, and it's awful being

David Page (28:01):

A Baronian means you sold babe roof.

Larry (28:05):

Yeah, well, um, okay.

David Page (28:07):

I grew up in Western mass. I grew up 90 miles west of Boston.

Larry (28:12):

You win that one.

David Page (28:14):

Okay.

Larry (28:15):

Uh, how did hamburgers become a, uh, an American favorite?

David Page (28:20):

Well, uh, they were brought here, uh, by German immigrants, uh, and most likely were named for the town of Hamburg, uh, which was the, uh, embark point for those leaving Germany for the United States. They, uh, they got here in the form of hamburger steak, uh, the, the evolution to the hamburger, as we know, it came 19 hundreds. Everybody claims that he or she invented the first hamburger on a bun or in the case of Louis lunch in new Haven, which claims to be the first theirs was actually served still is on toasted white bread. But what made the hamburger, the American, um, icon that it is, was a white castle of all places, Billy Ingram, who had been, um, a real estate and insurance salesman got in himself involved with a small hamburger stand in Wichita, Kansas saw the future in that this was at a time in the twenties when

David Page (29:31):

Chop beef had a terrible reputation in the United States up in Sinclair's book, the jungle had basically exposed the horrible lack of sanitation and safety in packing houses. And the worst of the worst was thought to be chop meat. So the hamburger was suffering, um, a, uh, a real identity problem. And Billy Ingram said, well, here's what we're gonna do. We are gonna make our rest grants look like, um, hospitals, white tile, stainless steel, all sanitary looking, and we're going to chop the meat, uh, cook the meat in front of the public so they can see we're not screwing around with it. And he charged very little for the, the dish. And it was the white castle chain that began in the twenties that really made the hamburger, the American icon that it is.

Larry (30:31):

So from white castle to McDonald's to the $5,000 Hamburg,

David Page (30:37):

Uh, yeah, well, you know, um, those are gimicks and you, you can, every now and then someone in Las Vegas will sell you a $5,000 or similar hamburger, but there are gourmet hamburgers, obviously, um, which well, and even lesser than that, we're now at a point in the country where, uh, any fine dining restaurant feels compelled to have a high quality hamburger as a lunch item. But, but what you're also seeing now, interestingly enough is a whole category of restaurants known as, uh, well, the, the food that they're serving is known as a better burger. These are places like five guys that are marketing. We kind of like fast food, but our product is much better. The quality is higher and you know, you can debate the quality of the beef McDonald's is not gonna sell you bad beef. Um, there's this frozen, most of the better burger joints don't freeze their beef.

David Page (31:39):

Although I talk to a number of, uh, meat scientists, you said, once you put, um, condiments on it, I defy you to tell the difference, uh, nonetheless, the better burger market, uh, and the big difference here beyond quality is that when you go to a better burger joint, they cook it for you after you order it and you wait longer, but anything cooked fresh that doesn't degrade is gonna be better than a burger that was cooked however many minutes ago, and has been sitting under a heat lamp. I mean, that's, that's the big difference. And, and there's also, you know, there's any number of, um, selling points to different, better burger chains, organic vegetable, um, everything made from scratch. You know, the whole cell is the, the product is superior.

Larry (32:33):

What do you think of using vegetables as a burger?

David Page (32:38):

I think it's

Larry (32:38):

The new plant based.

David Page (32:40):

I don't like it because I don't like the concept of faking something. If you don't wanna eat meat, don't eat meat, eat vegetables. There's plenty of things to do with vegetables, but I, it always cracks me up when a vegetarian friend not even vegan and says, oh, I love this, uh, soy bacon. It tastes just like bacon. Well, if you want bacon eat bacon, um, I understand the, the broader social concerns beyond health of factory farming as a negative. I'm not sure that making, um, processed veggie burgers is, is really gonna cut much into that. Maybe it will, maybe I'm shortsighted. Uh, what hasn't been discussed is the degree to which these alternative products are a highly processed and B no, one's, uh, been transparent about what they do in terms of a carbons footprint, because this is a mechanized manufacturer of something. And a number of people are raising questions a about that. Uh, personally, I love vegetables. I love to eat vegetables, vegetable chilies, one of my favorite dishes. I get no interest in a fake hamburger.

Larry (33:59):

Do you have time for one more chapter?

David Page (34:01):

Sure.

Larry (34:03):

Bagels,

David Page (34:05):

Yes.

Larry (34:07):

Locks, yes. Cream cheese onions.

David Page (34:11):

Yeah. It's look, it's my death meal. There is, there is nothing better than bagels locks and cream cheese, uh, from the right place. I mean, look, most of America thinks of bagels as a frozen lender's bagel or an equivalent as sold to you at Dunkin donuts. You know, as, as, as a new Yorker that that's not a bagel, but, um, Marvin lender who very kindly spoke to me and is a great guy and a terrific philanthropist acknowledges that he says, look, I could not have sold, um, crunchy chewy, New York bagels, um, in the Midwest, he says, most of America wasn't gonna go for that Jewish dish. So we sold something else. Um, what's interesting is that there real resurgence in, uh, in the manufacturer, the, the handmade bagel, the artisanal bagel, there are places all over the country now that that are doing it. The old fashioned New York way.

David Page (35:15):

What's fascinating about bagels locks and cream cheese is you think of that as, um, a traditional Jew dish. So it must have come from Europe. Well, the only part of that, that came from Europe was the bagel, which was documented as far back as the 16 hundreds in Poland, and presumably was elsewhere in Eastern Europe, but no one's proven it. Um, and that bagel was, was harder and smaller than the bagels that developed, uh, after the immigrants came to New York locks did not exist for Jews in Europe. Um, smoke, smoke salmon just wasn't a thing. So they weren't eating that nor was there something called cream cheese, which was created in the 18 hundreds in upstate New York by a farmer. Uh, well, a dairy farmer who was allegedly looking to copy no Chatel and didn't quite do it, but came up with something that turned out to be tremendously marketable.

David Page (36:18):

Now, the combination, and, and no one has ever documented where this combination started, the, the cream cheese was marketed to Jews by the Breakstone company, not the initial company that invented it, but they were making it cause the Breakstone brothers were J uh, I think they were from Ukraine and they, uh, ran ads in the forfeits. The forward, the, the Yiddish language newspaper in New York, specifically finding Jewish culinary or, or holiday uses for cream cheese. It's good on this. It's good on that. They know ever said it was good on a bagel that we can prove the other, um, cream cheese purveyors who ran ads in the Flo, its didn't tailor them to Jews. They just translated their everyday copy. So presumably it was break stones. And, and as I look back on it, I think that was the brand, both of the sets of my grandparents used.

David Page (37:19):

So I guess they kind of wrapped up the Jewish market. Anyway, the thing with cream cheese, um, and locks is that the locks we we had back then was not smoked salmon. It was salmon Brian and salt smoke, which now you call belly locks. When you go to buy locks or smokes, I mean, everything's called locks, but most of what's sold these days is a milder, um, item called smoke. Salmon locks was invented when the transcontinental railroad was completed and it was possible to ship salmon from the Pacific Northwest to the east coast. But this was before refrigeration. The only way to keep it preserved was to pack in, in tremendous amounts of salt, which resulted in a cured product, but in incredibly salty product. And even scientifically, there are reasons why cream cheese, um, ameliorates the, the sting of the salt. It, it cuts the salt. So that's a perfect combination. And of course, on a bagel, I mean, everything's going on a bagel,

Larry (38:35):

David, where can people get your book?

David Page (38:38):

Well, you can get at any place that sells books, but, um, I'll send you first to amazon.com cause they're the ones who aggregate the sales figures that matter. Um, but Barnes and noble books.com target Walmart, any place you want to get a book, um, please pick it up. It's called food Erica. Um, and I hope you like it.

Larry (39:00):

I'm enjoying it. And I really enjoyed this conversation. It's been terrific having you on

David Page (39:06):

Well, I've enjoyed myself. So thanks for inviting me.

Larry (39:10):

Bye bye.

Larry (39:13):

If you found this podcast fun or helpful, we'd appreciate it. If you tell your friends and family and click on the follow or subscribe button, wherever you listen to podcasts until next time I'm Larry bar and you've been listening to specifically for.

David Page Profile Photo

David Page

Two-time Emmy winner David Page changed the world of food television by creating, developing, and executive-producing the groundbreaking show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Before that, as a network news producer based in London, Frankfurt, and Budapest, he traveled Europe, Africa, and the Middle East doing two things: covering some of the biggest stories in the world and developing a passion for some of the world’s most incredible food.

Page walked through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin the night the Berlin wall opened, but his favorite memory of the eastern side before reunification remains the weisswurst sold under the S-Bahn elevated train. He was first served couscous by Moammar Khaddafy’s kitchen staff while waiting in a tent to interview the dictator in Libya. Blood oranges at a three o’clock breakfast with Yasser Arafat. Wild boar prosciutto in Rome. Bouillabaisse in Marseille. Cheese pies in Tbilisi. Venison in Salzburg. Nonstop caviar in Moscow. He even managed to slip a few food features in between the headline stories, such as a profile of Germany’s leading food critic, which turned out not to be the oxymoron one might assume.

Once back in the states, Page has pursued his passion both personally and professionally. Show-producing Good Morning America, he was involved in a substantial amount of food coverage, including cooking segments by Emeril Lagasse. Creating Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and hands-on producing its first eleven seasons took him deep into the world of American food—its vast variations, its history, its evolution, and especially the dedicated cooks and chefs keeping it vibrant. His next series, the syndicated Beer Geeks, dove deep into the intersection of great beer and great food. It is those experiences, that education, and the discovery of little- known stories and facts that led Page to dig even deeper and tie the strands together in Food Americana.