It may be trite, but there's a reason why the "food is life" cliché has endured over the years: It's true. No matter how old you are, it always feels like you're home for Thanksgiving when you eat turkey and dressing, and like summer when you down a hot dog or a Popsicle. Food and memories go together like peanut butter and, well, you know the rest.
This is a little fact of life that Linda Ellerbee knows well, and she explores it in her latest book, an ode to food and memories called Take Big Bites. The native Houstonian first gained fame in the 1980s as the writer-host of NBC News Overnight and ABC's Our World (for which she won an Emmy), and as the creator-producer of Nick News for Nickelodeon. Ballsy and brash, she has garnered a reputation for being tough with sources and even with herself (her battle with breast cancer was highly publicized). She's tackled presidents, Wall Street moguls and war-torn Vietnam and Afghanistan. She's written books on single motherhood and the TV news industry. So why, now, would she tackle food?
"I've been fortunate enough to have all these adventures all these years," she says. The idea for the book came from her travel journals, which span more than three decades. "I discovered how often food was a part of them. But the book's theme -- 'take big bites' -- is more about an attitude of life than just eating."
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Take Big Bites follows Ellerbee from her early days in Houston, growing up with TV dinners in her mom's kitchen, and later as a teen at Lamar High School. "We got our driver's licenses at 14 and our cars at 15. I think the state took the attitude that there wasn't much we could hit," she says with a laugh, referring to our wide-open city. The book also includes an ode to the local Felix Mexican Restaurant, which, says Ellerbee, boasts the world's greatest chile con queso.
In all her travels and in every chapter of Bite, Ellerbee offers candid, humorous, sometimes even sexy, stories. She dishes on why lunch is the sexiest meal, interspersing tales of romance with the world's best fried egg sandwich in Reykjavík, Iceland, or a cruise line's sinful mushroom cappuccino. In a chapter called "No Shit, I Was There," she remembers whitewater rafting. Elsewhere, she dishes on hanging on a yacht with gazillionaire Malcolm Forbes. The recipes range from intricate to simple: At the close of the chapter in which Ellerbee visits children in Afghanistan, the recipe simply states, "Buy a bag of oranges. Give them to kids who don't have oranges."
And for all the laughs and even hunger that her book may elicit, Ellerbee wants Take Big Bites to inspire people to travel, especially younger folks.
"There are so many people right now that want you to be afraid to travel because you're an American," she says. "I say bullshit. Get off your keister and go see the world. Go talk to strangers, go eat their food. Go find out who they are. If the young people in the world start talking to one another, maybe they won't be caught up in our own government and every other government's idea that we should fear one another."