Face Time: Mo Rocca

September 27, 2013
Comic/journalist Mo Rocca makes meals with senior citizens on the Cooking Channel’s “My Grandmother’s Ravioli,” which returns Wednesday. (Getty Images)
Comic/journalist Mo Rocca makes meals with senior citizens on the Cooking Channel’s “My Grandmother’s Ravioli,” which returns Wednesday. (Getty Images)

As a kid, comedian and CBS correspondent, Mo Rocca gobbled up his grandma’s pastas. But he never learned her cooking secrets, a fact that spurred him to create “My Grandmother’s Ravioli.” The Cooking Channel show lets him invade the kitchens of grandparents across the country, learning to make everything from biscuits to curry. Season 2 begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Why is preserving the older generation’s recipes so important?
It’s not important so much as it’s really fun. If you don’t do it, you’re missing out on a great time. When I do these episodes, I learn about more than just recipes — I learn the recipe for a life well-lived.

You meet a variety of grandparents on the show. What does their cooking have in common?
Apparently garlic is in everything! And none of the grandmothers measure when they bake. And the grandfathers — they’re extreme nonmeasurers.

Can we learn anything from their techniques?
For the grandparents I’ve cooked with, there’s nothing artisanal about what they’re cooking. They aren’t worried about things coming out perfectly, and that’s probably why their food turns out so well.

What are these older people like in the kitchen?
They’re so at ease! They can make noodles and have a conversation that’s mundane or deep. They’re not stressed about cooking because it’s like their muscle memory has taken over.

What’s been most surprising about filming “My Grandmother’s Ravioli”?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how at ease these grandparents have been on camera. The conventional wisdom is that older people get freaked out or freeze on camera, but these grandparents have been instantly themselves on camera — more so than young people who affect certain attitudes on camera. These grandparents aren’t the people who are desperate to get on TV and get a spin-off. They just do their thing.

Is it OK to tweak old recipes?
I think it’s fine to tinker with old recipes and make them your own. There are lots of examples of that on the show, where grandparents are immigrants, and they can’t find a certain ingredient from home, so they substitute.

Has doing this show changed how you cook at home?
Well, I don’t cook at home. I can’t be anything more than truthful. The boring reason is that I’ve been working so much. But think — Bart Simpson has been 10 years old for 20 years. It’s like I’m at the same level of noncooking.

Does doing the show make you feel better about your own aging process?
Yes, I’ve found it centering and stabilizing. I realize these people have fun, full lives. They make me want to be 94!

You’re from Bethesda. Do you miss anything about the area?
Other than my family, I kind of miss the smell of cut grass.

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