My favorite thing to do is listen to someone. I love learning about what they do; why the drive to do what they do is so strong. But in order to make a show and keep up with an efficient production schedule, these opportunities to discover a person boil down to brief moments in the field followed by weeks of staring at their faces on a screen. I meet someone, listen to them, learn them, and then usually only see them again during the arduous editing task. At times an email or Instagram shout-out is exchanged only to be gone again.
In this process I do two things: 1) get really absorbed with what makes a person tick and 2) get really lonely (and hungry- I’m looking at footage of food all day).
When Rodriguez wrote the lyrics “I make 16 solid half hour friendships every evening” in his incredibly epic and transparent song “Cause,” I always related that to the loneliness of making art, sharing pieces of yourself for a brief moment, and then moving onto the next dark, bar stage in another city, in another land.
Doing this show, being on the road constantly, meeting new people steadily, I definitely feel that way. Or as Jay-Z put it, “Onto the next one.” But I never stop being fascinated, challenged, confuzzled, and confounded by those I interview along the way.
For Carlo’s story- he was never a chef I thought I’d come across. First, his restaurant Clyde Common was not on my radar. I thought “oh, its a hotel restaurant,” and then “oh its a hipster hangout,” and then “oh, I’m not cool enough to go there.” It took my husband going to a press event, where Carlo was showcasing some new menu items, to stop me in my tracks. What did hubby convey to me? 1) Carlo spent his formative years in the Philippines with no choice but to kill his dinner with a knife and 2) he’s trying to serve up crazy shit he grew up eating, some of which is offal, to Portland’s timid diners. (Yes, Portland. I said it. Do with me what you will.)
When I finally sat down with Carlo- I laughed. We both had these strange, staunch ideals- clearly from kids who grew up broke and in the field- but he had such a sense of humor and wit about those ideals and what he believed in. I told him about my 3-day boar hunt in California and how much appreciation I had for the animal we’d all worked so hard to get. He went on to list all the things his family would make when breaking down a pig- which he’d had to slaughter as a kid. His list ran on because they used everything. I got excited, and being from Missouri, said “show me.”
We agreed to slaughter a pig and use all the organs because I knew we’d be sincere about the task at hand. Carlo explained to me he doesn't like to hunt. He respects working with the animals he gets but to take a life is a huge responsibility. I can sympathize. I also knew we’d laugh.
The day came at picturesque Worden Hill Farms, just outside of Portland, the sun burning down on the patch of fields where big hunks of pig laid lazily in spots of green and dirt. Carlo broke the news to me on-site that others were coming. Staff from his kitchen. And not just 1...like 7. Enter my panic attack. My goal is to be sure that my subject is comfortable, feels like they can open up, be themselves…and when you put a crowd around, be it crew or friends or staff, people clam up. Would I be able to listen?
Watch the episode and you can see that having his crew there was not only a great time but also incredibly useful. Because breaking down a whole pig is one thing. Breaking down the organs and using every piece is another. It’s important- and a clear waste of food when we don’t- so having the crew was a luxury. Like, 5 star hotel service. But done by hip young things who don’t hide their disgust while squeezing bile from intestines. (Is that what’s in the intestines? Or is it just poo’s prequel?)
While Carlo blew my mind with things like harvesting the blood, quick searing the still warm tenderloin for a light snack, what I really learned that day was his ability to be his total self. Carlo revered where he came from, he respected the losses we all must face along the way, he recognized the path he took in his career, and in his place of leadership all of these little strings that connect our life dots— he celebrated. He brought me out to experience a piece of that. He brought his team out to witness a piece of that. He took his own time and energy to re-create that.
I may have made a few 16 solid half hour friendships that day in the field, but I learned my favorite thing to do is not to listen to someone: It is to witness someone.
And now I’m hungry and I want more.
This week, Kelly explores what it means to be a responsible meat eater. She meets Carlo Lamagna, head chef at Clyde Common in Portland, to learn how to properly slaughter and butcher a hog. Then, Chef Carlo shows Kelly how to use the organs — parts that often get wasted — in some of his favorite family recipes from the Philippines. Those recipes and his personal connection to the meat are inspiration for the innovative dishes (things like crispy fried pig ears and offal) that Carlo is bringing to the trendy set in Portland.