James and Padma. (04/27/2008)
Padma was making an appearance at the 13th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books to promote her cookbook. Our friend Christine was actually working at the festival that weekend (Christine manages the library store operated by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, which had a booth at the festival).
When Christine's husband Tom pointed out that Padma Lakshmi was scheduled for a cooking demonstration and book signing, we were all over it like a bad rash.
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. (04/27/2008)
I hadn't been to the festival before. I'm not typically much of a reader, at least when it comes to full-length books (give me a magazine, Internet article or blog anytime though). But leave it to Padma to bring me for the first time.
Her book, Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day, is not merely a cookbook. It's really a life-long collection of recipes, travel stories and personal anecdotes that helped form her palate. Looking through it you really get the impression you've been sifting through a shoebox of memories.
Padma was reading from her cookbook 'Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet.' (04/27/2008)
Padma began her session with some audience Q&A, mostly relating to Top Chef. With the help of an audience volunteer, she demonstrated a recipe from the book: Mushroom and Goat Cheese Flautas, which she complemented with a Fresh Mint and Date dipping sauce.
Although we didn't get to taste any of the food Padma prepared, Tom, who was close to the stage getting photos, can attest that the food smelled terrific.
Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi reads from her book. (04/27/2008)
She also read a couple of the short essays in the book, highlighting some of her life lessons. Her readings were just as colorful and vibrant as the book's awesome photography.
I enjoyed her reading of a childhood story about the time she unabashedly stole roses from a neighbor's garden to give to her mom for Mother's Day, especially when she imitated her mom's thick accent. Seriously, it was as funny as when Margaret Cho imitates her mom! :)
Tom and Padma. (04/27/2008)
Afterwards, Tom and I dashed to the autograph line to secure a good spot before the rest of the crowd got there (even then, there were probably 50 people ahead of us). We were glad to see that Padma was posing for pictures, despite the no photography rule that was listed in the schedule.
Tom and I, of course, were prepared nonetheless, cameras in hand. As usual, Tom took a much better picture of me with his camera than he did with mine. But I think Padma looks better next to me than she does next to Tom ... wait a minute, I just realized I don't necessarily like the way that sounds! :)
Where Padma Lakshmi signed James' book. (04/27/2008)
I have the feeling Padma would have personalized her autograph had we asked, but we were careful not to take too much time since we were also posing for photographs.
Plus there was a long line of people behind us, and we didn't want to be like those handful of crazy superfans that show up to book signings and then spend a year with the person before moving on. Believe me, we've seen plenty of those types at signings by Liza Minnelli, Caroline Kennedy and Iron Chef Morimoto.
James and Mrs. Lakshmi. (04/27/2008)
After getting our pictures taken with Padma, we ran into her mother, who was standing nearby. It's now gotten to the point where we not only try to get ourselves photographed with celebrities, but also celebrity mothers!
It was one of those times where Tom and I were glad we were with each other, since neither Christine nor Tim would likely join is in approaching Padma's mom. (But at least we're not like those crazy superfans, right?) :)
Where Padma's Mom signed James' book. (04/27/2008)
Mrs. Lakshmi was nice, but a little surprised in our interest in her. She was even more surprised when we asked her to sign one of the photos that appears inside Padma's book a little trick I learned back in the 1990s when at a Lorna Luft book signing, I had Lorna's son Jesse (Judy Garland's only grandson) sign his photo page.
But Mrs. Lakshmi was delightful, and happily signed her photo inside. Our encounter with Padma's mom only added one more interesting layer to an already fun-filled day.
Be sure and read Tom's blog post about our day with Padma. Also, thanks Tom for the use of a couple of your photos.