For those of you who regularly listen to the radio and podcasts, you’ve probably heard On Point with Tom Ashbrook at least a few times. If not, you’re missing out! Please tune in!
In my opinion, On Point has widest range of topics of any show I’ve encountered. Ever. With in-depth analysis and callers from every walk of life. From the latest news stories to food, books, music — you name it. Tom has covered it. Or he’s about to.
One thing that I especially like is that people of color are regularly included as part of the discussion. Not as a gimmick. Not because diversity is being forced. But because we are part of the fabric of America. Inclusion has been part of the show for as long as I’ve listened to it.
Since today is September 11th, it seems especially fitting to have Tom “here” today. That date was also the genesis for his show.
On Point was born in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, when the country was looking for answers and impatient with old certitudes. We still carry that urgency today: to test, challenge and probe. And while we do it, to celebrate the people, arts and ideas that make life a joy.
So let’s resume this ongoing series with the 15th interview of You Pick Six and learn some more about Tom.
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What is a favorite childhood food memory?
I grew up on an old family farm in Illinois. As kids, we were put on the big tractors early, and in the hay fields, and we really worked. Coming back to the house from a big day in the fields, I was crazy for all the fresh stuff right in from our garden – asparagus, snap peas, tomatoes, sweet corn. The flavor and fragrance of absolute freshness was so sublime. I can still taste it.
What is a favorite dessert?
Hands down, peach cobbler. But only the genuine, old-school article. I had aunts who were almost Amish. Mennonites, with the big bonnets and all. And they made peach cobbler that had flavors I can’t even name. Subtle, exquisite, caramelized flavors that were other-worldly. They made symphonies with peach cobbler.
How did food become an important part of your life?
Food is an important part of everybody’s life, whether we treat it that way or not. It literally shapes us and our pleasures. When I left home, my palate exploded. Oysters in Boston. Beef tartar in Washington. So many kinds of yogurt and fish in Sweden, the “old country” in my family. Being a midwestern farm kid, there were so many revelations waiting. I went from naive love to amazed appreciation.
What is the best meal you ever had and where was it?
Rajahmundry, in south India. I was nineteen, traveling alone way off the beaten path. Looking for an old ally of Gandhi’s who had become a dissident and was lying low on an ashram upriver. I ducked into a very simple restaurant on the main street and managed to use my newly-acquired language skills in Telugu to order an okra curry and raita. Everything was served on a huge banana leaf. That curry blew my mind. Flavor so robust and delicate at the same time. I still dream about it.
What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Thank you, Jesus.
What inspires you?
The human capacity for reinvention and kindness. A few years ago I lost my childhood sweetheart to cancer. I grieved so hard. And ate almost nothing but broccoli and sardines for a year. Weird disaster food, but it kept me alive. Many people helped me profoundly, but then I met one who brought me fully back to life. And an important part of that happened in the kitchen. She made me a happy near vegetarian. Now we cook together every night.
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Thank you so much for participating Tom!
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Photos: Provided by Tom Ashbrook.