For my seventh or eight birthday … My very trusting, very Ghanaian, very frustrated from my constant nagging, parents bought me my very own Thirteen inch Zenith Color Television… and as you can tell from the picture above I was very, very happy about it.
Television, second only to books, is one of the great loves of my life. I loveddddddd tv and to have my very tv own in my very own room was in my 8-year-old mind… OUTSTANDING.
My way older TV-less brothers were understandably not as thrilled. But they obliged and dragged it up the stairs and propped it up on my dresser right next to Rainbow Brite and my pile of Ramona Quimby novels. It was love at first sight. I loved the way the little numbers illuminated in red on the display. I loved the little circle flash it made when it turned off and on and I LOVED all that could be found, seen, and learned from that little black and brown box.
I never had that fancy cable but my rabbit eared antenna and a few strips of foil were like Tami and Marvin to me… They were all I needed to get by. With that I was able to consistently get channels 5, 7, 11, and 60 (now Channel 50). Channel 5 was for sitcoms. Channel 7 was for the news and Wheel of Fortune. Channel 60 was for my beloved reruns of All in the Family or Archie as I called it. But my favorite and my best was WTTW Chicago.
“Hi, My name is Senam and you’re watching Channel 11, WTTW in Chicago.”
I probably tried to get my name to fit into those man on the street station ID’s every time they flashed on my screen. Shockingly… There never was anyone named Senam sliding down a slide to beam and giggle in the camera as the spoke the Channel 11 Station Id with that sweet wooden bewilderment that was ever present no matter what member of the rainbow coalition they chose to deliver it. But it didn’t bother me at all.
Cause I was there for my shows… Namely, Reading Rainbow and My Cooking Shows. I know this sounds ridiculous but growing up you would be way more likely to find me perched in front of a PBS cooking show than Jem, She Ra, or Saved by the Bell…
I loved them. Loved them. LOVED THEM…
The Frugal Gourmet with Jeff Smith was my bread butter and JAM.
I remember watching him cook fish and laughing hysterically and talking back to him incessantly as he cooked. Till this very day every single time I make eggs I think about his rules for making the perfect omelet. I can also remember carrying my tail downstairs to breakfast one day to reprimand my mother for not making her eggs according to his rules… She kept the eggs in the Fridge and put MILK in them… For SHAME!! Jeff Smith would have been OUTRAGED… Probably not as outraged as my mama was listening to her snotty nosed 10-year-old child try to school her on the art of egg making… LOL
And YAN… OH YAN… Do you know how loudly I used to holler YAN CAN COOK at the opening of the show?!! I mean seriously, Martin Yan was like an actual factual rockstar to me… He was amazing in the kitchen. He probably cooked for like 10 minutes and talked and joked and showed off his RIDICULOUS knife skills for the other 20 minutes but YAN sure can cook!
So entertaining and so magnificently talented… That dude can debone a whole chicken in like 20 seconds… Need to chop, dice, slice, or Julienne anything…Yan is THE MAN…
And of course there was Julia. Oh how I adored Julia.
The thing about it was every single time she started the show I would think… What the hell is Osso Busco? I wouldn’t eat that mess! Beef Wellington? No Ma’am. But without FAIL by the time she plated up whatever I had sworn to never eat, my mouth was watering, and I had committed myself to one day eat these “exotic” delicacies in some fancy restaurant when I was a grown up girl.
Every membership drive, I would harass my parents to become subscribers so we could support public television in Chicago… Mooommmmm what if they can’t afford to keep my shows on… And we get a mug!!! Give them some money… PLEASE! To my dismay they refused every time, they were much more concerned with buying me actual food than making sure I could watch my favorite chefs cook food I would never eat.
As I grew older, I watched Wild Chicago, fantastic documentaries about people and places I would have never know of otherwise, and became utterly OBSESSED with British comedies like Fawlty Towers, Keeping Up Appearances and Are You Being Served?” Watching Channel 11 was exactly what the WTTW stood for. WTTW was my Window to the World.
So when I tell you that I am completely gobsmacked by the possibility that I would be able to be the host of my favorite show that just happens to air on Channel 11… I get just a wee bit emotional. I’ve been crying and hollering “Go, Jesus, Go Jesus GO” off and on for months now. LOL
Case in point:
In a few hours, my family, my friends,and I will sit in my living room and watch my audition to be the host of Check Please! WTTW on the Check Please! (Almost) Host Special. The fact that I’m there at all is a complete miraculous miracle of magnificent, ginormous, miracle-y proportions. Seriously…I can’t even believe it…. I can’t EVEN. Not EVEN for all THE EVENS in EVENDOM…
This is my absolute dream job. I can not tell you how much of a fantastic life change this would be for me and the kids. This is truly a defining moment in my life… The minute I saw that they were looking for a new host for Check Please! I KNEW they were looking for me. And no I’m not a classically trained chef, or a hugely successful restaurant owner or a longtime media professional. I’m just a big girl from the city of big shoulders, with a big fro, a big personality, and an even bigger abiding love of good food, good people, and great conversations.
That’s all I have to offer and there were times that I wasn’t sure that it would be enough to get me as far I’ve come. And as far as I hope to go. But every step of the way I thought about that little eight year old girl with the world in her TV and the universe in her books. Cause I knew that she knew that world was big and wide and that even though she didn’t know how she would do it she was 100 percent sure that she could do exactly what the Reading Rainbow theme had told her. She could go anywhere. She could do ANYTHING.
So I believed that girl and I fought for her every step of the way. I put myself out there and told the world I want this job and I want it bad. I dismissed the fears, I dismissed the naysayers who didn’t think I should even be here… I showed up and I did the best I could do. And here I am.
So win or lose I’m so grateful for this whole experience… So grateful for my family and friends who have rallied behind me. So grateful to have heard my mother and brothers scream with sheer joy when they saw me in the paper and going so hard towards my dream. So grateful to the strangers who have shouted, “Hey Check Please! You’re going to WIN” at me from passing cars. The complete strangers who have emailed and told me how they have voted, and prayed, and told everyone that they want me to win. So grateful to David, Jacqui, AJ, and every person involved with the whole Check Please process that have made me realize that I am on the right track and that this and so much more could be real for me.
But most of all I’m so grateful to see that once again Channel 11 has shown me that the windows to my world are wide open… And from where I sit the view looks pretty damn good. #checksenamplease