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Gather 'Round the Table Podcast with David James Elliott
David speaks with Nikki from Gather 'Round the Table about family, dinner time, cooking and traditions.
NIKKI: Welcome back to Gather 'Round With..... I'm Nikki, your host. And this week we have David James Elliott, voted one of People Magazine's Most Beautiful People in l996. I also want to let you guys know that this podcast is sponsored by fordjefans.com. And it's one of the most comprehensive fan sites for David James Elliott, and it's got wonderful information about his biography and portraits and interviews and that kind of thing. So be sure you want to check that out. Thank you, David, for joining us. I truly appreciate your time.
DAVID: Thank you, thanks for having me. Love to be here.
NIKKI: Wonderful. Now first off, 17 years marriage. Congratulations. That's an amazing accomplishment.
DAVID: Thank you.
NIKKI: Now, you have two children?
DAVID: Yes I do. I have a daughter who's 16, and I have a son who's 6.
NIKKI: Wow! As an actor in Hollywood with younger children, and certainly your daughter even at 16 sort of falls into that category a little bit, how do you manage to keep the same kind of home family environment without all of the gloss and the glitter? How do you keep it simple, and how do you keep it real between you guys?
DAVID: Well, you know, I grew up in a small town, as did my wife. And I guess maybe the values that our parents instilled in us, they're just a part of who we are. And you know, I've never looked at the whole Hollywood thing as so much as a life style, as it was just where I needed to be to work my career, and it's a job. And I take family very seriously, as do all of my friends. You find you tend to hang with people that share the same values you do. I don't know what to say other than the fact that I want what's best for my children, and I try, and I've always felt it important to achieve that by making sure that the avenues of communication are open. And one of those things certainly are whenever we can eat together. That time when we're all sitting down at a table together and discussing things that are either pertinent to our family at that moment, or if we have a problem, and check in with everybody, you know.
NIKKI: Now, when we sit down at the table---I know many families do play a high-low game kind of thing. And do you do that with your family, where everybody mentions the low point and everybody then talks about the high point, and you sort of open.....
DAVID: I wouldn't say that we really have a system like that in place. We sit down, we talk. I mean, we just talk about whatever anybody wants to talk about. And you listen to the 6-year-old, the conversation is not always that heavy or (with) deep meaning, you know, (Nikki laughs) as it is sometimes with my 16-year-old. And sometimes she feels that certain topics are best left away from the dinner table, and dealt with not in front of her little brother. But it's really not so much what you're talking about, as the time you spend together as a family that counts.
NIKKI: Now I read somewhere that you're a huge cooking fan, and that you do a lot of cooking.
DAVID: Yeah, I do. I pretty much cook for the family.
NIKKI: Do you involve the kids in that?
DAVID: Yeah, I do, and my little guy really loves to be involved in it. And my daughter---anytime I can grab her ear, she really listens. I don't know---you know sometimes I think when I start talking, that's when the volume knob gets turned down.
NIKKI: (Laughs) I think that's the same it is with all teenagers.
DAVID: I try to help---Hey, come on over. Let me show you how to do this. Because one (day) it's not going to be too long from now you'll be by yourself in a college dorm somewhere or an apartment, and you're not going to be able to afford to go out every night. So let me show you how to make a sauce, or how to do something in particular. My little buddy always wants to be a part of it. He wants to be sitting with me, he wants to help stir, wants to add the ingredients. He just loves to be a part---just loves to hang out and to be with, yeah.
DAVID: It's not about cooking, and more about spending time with Dad.
NIKKI: And I think that that's an amazing part, because it's encouraging him, not only to open avenues of communication, not just at the table or at the kitchen counter, but also anywhere that you might happen to be together. (David--Yeah) But it's also teaching him the love and appreciation of food, particularly good food.
DAVID: Yeah, sure. And you know, I look for other ways. I know the show's about sitting around the table, but I also try to find level ground with both my kids, where we can have---and my wife does it, too---we've each found our niche in an area of their interests that we share or that we can come to them on. Like I'll take my little guy downstairs and we jam. I've got a piano, I have a lot of guitars and harmonicas. I've various instruments, percussion instruments, I've got pianos and keyboards.....
DAVID: While he's not yet an accomplished player, he loves to go down and do the jam session with Dad. We do crazy stuff, and we make funny sounds. We make stories or songs. It's just great time spent together.
NIKKI: I think that's truly.....
DAVID: And my daughter---I'm her Shakespeare expert. She's heavy into Shakespeare at school these days, and so we share those things together. And my wife---she's got her thing with Stephanie and her thing with Wyatt. And the dinner table, I guess, is the one area where we all come together. Not too much at the breakfast table, because everybody's on the move, and they're not really thinking.
NIKKI: (Laughs) And they're sort of half asleep, too. (David--Yeah) I know at our house the kids show up in their a-little-bit-out-of-it zone.
DAVID: Well everybody's schedule is completely different. But usually the weekend---and even during the week, if Stephanie swims, we won't always get to have dinner together. By the time she gets home from her club swimming, everyone else has already dined. But the weekend is really a time when we dine together, you know.
NIKKI: As far as making sure you do it every night, certainly with schedules it can be very difficult. But because you have already worked out and have already spent time with your kids in other areas, and that you come to them on their terms, and that you meet with them at their level and their interests, (David--Yeah) you're sort of accomplishing the exact same thing, and then you're all coming together at another time to really work together.
DAVID: Yeah. And you know sometimes you feel more like a referee than a member of a conversation, especially with the 10-year difference with the kids. But it's all good. Really it is.
NIKKI: Do your kids have a special favorite dish, or is there something that you guys like to have at special occasions that just seems to always make it to the menu?
DAVID: Like most kids---I'm sure mine are no different---in that they're carbohydrate addicts. (Nikki laughs) So my job really is to make sure that they eat some of the other things from the protein area and from the favorable carbohydrate areas, like green vegetables or things like that. But they each have different things that they enjoy more than other things, and they're not exactly the same. (Nikki laughs) So please one, you're not pleasing the other one necessarily.
NIKKI: I think that's the same in almost every household across America, and it's always a battle to find something that's going to be the favorite of everybody's.
DAVID: Yeah, yeah.
NIKKI: Now, I had a couple of other quick questions very briefly. During holiday seasons, are you close enough to your extended family geographically-wise, that you're able to all get together, or is it sort of every two years that you're able to see the entire family together?
DAVID: Well, my wife and my extended family are all about three thousand miles away.
NIKKI: Oh, wow. So that does make it a little bit more difficult.
DAVID: And she's from like a thousand miles from where I'm from. So you have to pick one side, you know. Last year over Christmas, my Mother and my Brother came down, and we all met in the Bahamas.
DAVID: But the year before, my wife's parents came down and we had Christmas at our house. So really, I guess the answer is 'No', but we try to stay connected. Because I definitely want my children to feel that they're part of something bigger than just this immediate thing that they have---that they talk to their cousins, and their aunts, and uncle. And it's nice to feel that you're part of a bigger club. Because I certainly grew up that way, and my relatives were much closer than theirs are.
NIKKI: Now did you have a favorite holiday or a favorite tradition as you grew up that you brought forward into your new family?
DAVID: You know what? I tend to lean more---my wife has all that stuff. She's gotten specific about how Christmas has to be---when you have the meal...... All of her traditions have generally become our traditions. I'm not that nostalgic, but she is very much so. Like we open one gift Christmas Eve. We never had that at my house. You didn't open anything until the morning of. And I think they ate Christmas meal on Christmas Eve. We always ate it on Christmas Day. So we're eating it on Christmas Eve. You always go with the War Department and let them work it out. (Nikki laughs) It's the path of least resistance.
DAVID: It's the path of least resistance, so let your wife have it her way, and things will go much smoother.
NIKKI: So speaks the man who's been married happily for 17 years. Men take note.
DAVID: Yes, there you go. That's it. Learn to be agreeable.
NIKKI: (Laughs). Would you be willing to share one of your favorite recipes with our readers?
DAVID: Gosh---um---I don't have one off hand on me. I try to---I keep working with new recipes. I invented a thing called Green Chicken. I wrote it down, thank God! (Nikki laughs) It was spectacular. It had cilantro and garlic and champagne vinegar.
DAVID: I mean, it had some pretty cool stuff, but I don't have it with me, so I couldn't tell you what it is. I could maybe send it your way.
NIKKI: Would you be able to send it to us?
DAVID: Yeah, I could. But otherwise, I'm pretty good. I can grill fish---I'm good with fish. I gotta tell you---my kitchen is huge. I have three ovens (Nikki--Wow!). I've got a steam oven. I have an indoor and an outdoor grill. I don't use a microwave really ever. I just don't. I do things the old fashioned way. But that's me. I have a lot of cookbooks. I watch shows. I experiment. I go to the grocery store, and I look for inspiration. I go---what flavors might go well together? (Nikki - Nice.) Find some interesting things and make it good. And sometimes you're right and sometimes it's a disaster! I remember doing this thing with---what was it---not lilac---what's that---lavender. Lavender on chicken. Oh, it was horrible! (Nikki laughs) It was inedible! Sounded good at the time. But don't make that mistake.
NIKKI: I promise you. I will never put lavender and chicken together.
DAVID: Good Lord! I wouldn't put lavender together with anything after that. Leave it in the garden and look at it. Let the bees eat it.
NIKKI: (Laughs) It's pretty to look at and smell, but not eat, right?
DAVID: Yeah, yeah.
NIKKI: Well, David, I can't begin to thank you enough for sharing some of your stories and some of your tips. Is there anything that you wanted to mention to your fans?
DAVID: Thank you. Thanks for being with me all this time, and I look forward to being with you some more!
NIKKI: We certainly look forward to more of your incredible performances in either movies or television.
DAVID: Thank you.
NIKKI: Join us next week.......Until then, Gather 'Round.
Gather 'Round the Table