Anyone who loves to eat is intimately acquainted with the term “food coma.” For those of you who aren’t, it’s that feeling you get when you’ve eaten yourself into a sleepy stupor. Joe Ricchio, author of the blog Portland Food Coma and contributing editor to Maine Magazine’s “Eat Maine” teamed up with Alex Steed, communications strategist and founder of the sustainable dinner series Why Food Matters, to make a series about Maine eating, Food Coma TV.
Their aim is to create a show about Maine’s eclectic food scene from a local’s perspective. If Ricchio’s blog is any indication, overeating and over-imbibing will be standard and a whole other side of Maine’s dining culture will be revealed. The show begins filming this fall and will appear online in episodes and as a full-length documentary. Ricchio and Steed tell Food Republic about their show and offer advice on how to deal with the all-too-common affliction known as the food coma.
What drew you to food?
Joe Ricchio: In the beginning, the allure stemmed from the knowledge that if I were to go without it, I would die. Further on down the road however, I came to the conclusion that “Wow, you’re pretty fucking good at doing all this eating, why not expand your horizons?” It was pretty much the same story with booze, as well.
Alex Steed: When I was 12, I got a call from a friend who worked at a restaurant, this small, bustling breakfast place, and they needed a dishwasher. They paid $5 under the table and I jumped at the chance.
It was there and at other restaurants I worked at an inappropriately early age, that I learned a number of things — that steak can be cooked at various temps, that garlic comes in forms other than powder, that drugs and zines and politics and sex exist. And thus food became for me a vehicle for exploration and being taken seriously as a kid who wanted nothing more than that.
Describe your typical food coma for us and offer any advice you have for food coma sufferers.
JR: A typical food coma for me involves lying very still and taking breaths in and out at a count of 5 each. I generally take a solid 15-minute break from drinking at this point, just to let things “settle in.” In more extreme cases, such as a particular occasion at a Boston-area restaurant when a neighboring diner, who was a total stranger, told me how impressed she was by the amount of food she had watched me consume, I enter a state that I like to refer to as “snake mode.” This is when I’m so full that my belly expands and my man-boobs completely go away. This situation does not bode well for any kind of activity within the space of 45 minutes.
What is the impetus behind Food Coma TV?
AS: You don’t have to know Joe to understand that he is made for a television series. He is an amazing writer and his personality is electric. Joe is also a bit of a myth in Maine —he’s seen as this neo-Belushi figure — and in some ways that’s a fair comparison because he is hilarious and big and full of energy. But Joe’s also a really big-hearted and exceptionally giving person. We just take him to these places and he does his thing without editing the narrative, as he has to do with a blog or a magazine article.
A fairly significant component of this is our focus on having events on each of the towns, and interacting with as many folks as possible — this is about food culture in Maine, not necessarily just food, and so we want to talk with dishwashers, pizza guys who sell pot on their delivery routes, master chefs, investors and everyone in between.
What do you anticipate being most entertaining for viewers in this series?
JR: My choice of footwear in Northern Maine, or maybe the “valuable lesson” one can take away from each episode. An example of this would be “Don’t go fishing in leather–soled shoes.”
AS: Actually, I had just that experience, though in Chuck Taylors once. I went ice fishing with a guy and wore Chucks. I wasn’t thinking a whole lot.
Joe, how did you come up with the idea for The Portland Death Match party series — which was featured on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods show — and how did the cooking work?
JR: Deathmatch began as an idea I had for a dinner party that would force people to gorge on foie gras to the point where they wouldn’t even be able to look at it again for a full month. We organized 10 chefs, myself included, to put together a course each utilizing nine lobes of foie, that we proceeded to serve to 25 people. We also decided to pool our resources and go bankrupt purchasing ridiculous booze for the event.
Alex, how did “The Why Food Matters” series come together?
AS: A lot of the local families used to grow their own gardens and eat locally that way. As things get harder and harder, and jobs that pay decent wages become fewer, even the idea of growing a garden is becoming out of reach, since people work two and three jobs and also have to support their families. So in this way, if we want people to eat locally, and just be aware of what they’re putting into their bodies, we need to re-brand local foods, and create marketplaces that are competitive. So Why Food Matters is about talking about that with people who want to take that kind of action.
Do you cook? If so, what are your signature dishes?
JR: I love to cook, and my favorite piece of equipment is my wok. I adore it, and everything I toss into it turns to fucking magic. I cook primarily Chinese, both actual and American style, in addition to Vietnamese and Mexican. If I had to choose “signature dishes” I would say they are mostly soups of varying styles. I get really into making stock, as it’s quite calming for me. Also, there’s nothing better than the smell of your house in the morning, after a stock has been on the range overnight.
AS: I make a good huevos rancheros, and if you give me some access to a tablespoon or two of bacon grease and a range, I’ll make anything taste pretty okay.
To learn more about Food Coma TV view its Kickstarter page, where you can help it come to fruition with a donation.
Follow Food Coma TV on twitter (@foodcomatv) and on facebook.