Ted Allen’s family tree is a buffet of culinary amateurs, that suggest his Food Network stardom might be genetic. From baristas, to royal dinner guests, to a celebrity diet icon, Ted’s family tree shows that one of the best ways to look at history is food. We’ll tell these stories and introduce Ted to a mystery relative.
Thomas Andrew Byrd, Confederate Soldier.
Thomas & Katie Byrd
Ship’s Manifest of the Hercules, 1634
Listing Nathaniel Tilden as passenger #1 with 7 servants.
Twice Removed is produced by Meg Driscoll, Ngofeen Mputubwele, Matthew Nelson, Audrey Quinn and Kimmie Regler. Our senior producer is Eric Mennel. Editing by Jorge Just, Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney. Original music and mixing by Haley Shaw. Research and genealogy help from J. Mark Lowe, Angela Walton-Raji, Erica Howton and the folks at Geni. Fact checking by Michelle Harris.
Extra thanks to Brittany Luse, Jimmy O’Connell, Jim Mullins, Andy Abrams, Jon Grinspan, Cherie Bush and Lee Mazur. Carole Levin’s book “The Heart and Stomach of a King” is out in paperback. Alex Prud’homme’s new book about Julia Child is “The French Chef In America: Julia Child’s Second Act.” And Thanks to Lauri Ditunno at Cake Alchemy for making our sugarworks swan. You can see the pictures of the Swan and a graphic of the family tree between Ted and Alex on our website, Gimletmedia.com/TwiceRemoved. We’re on Twitter, @TwiceRemoved and Facebook @twiceremovedshow. Twice Removed is a production of Gimlet Media. I’m AJ Jacobs. Thanks for listening.
I’m A.J. Jacobs, and this is Twice Removed, the show that proves we are in fact one big family.
Right now, I have two people in this building, in separate studios. What they do not realize is they’re related. They’re family. One of them… our mystery relative will be hidden away until the end of the episode.
The other… is sitting right here with me… he’s our guest… Go ahead and introduce yourself:
TED: My name is Ted Allen, I’m the host of Chopped and Chopped Junior on the Food Network.
And for those who haven’t seen the show, Ted, Chopped is a cooking competition show. A bunch of chefs are given mystery ingredients and then have to prepare a dish in some insane amount of time. Like, 20 minutes.
Ted on Chopped: Four chefs, three courses, only one chance to win.
Ted: We’ve been doing that for about seven and a half years to my astonishment. We’ve made about 450 episodes of that show.
AJ: Wow. Thats uh, that’s a lot of food.
Ted: That’s a lot of food, and some of it’s good.
Ted: Uh and some of it’s not.
Some of you might know Ted as the food and wine expert on Queer Eye For the Straight Guy back in the early 2000s. You’ve won two James Beard awards. Dined with some of the best chefs in the world… To sum it up… you like food.
Ted: Yes! Yes!
AJ: But, if i’m not mistaken, growing up, food was not exactly a high art in your home. You were born and raised in Ohio, with roots in the deep South. So, what was food like for you as a kid?
Ted: My dad would take a can of salmon. You can get salmon in a can, if you didn’t know that. Uh, it still has bones in it, but they get soft enough that you can actually just mash them up and eat them.
Ted: It’s so nasty. He would dump canned salmon into a bowl, squirt ketchup on it, mash it into a paste with a fork, and eat it on saltine crackers. Have you ever heard of that?
AJ: I have never heard of that, but it sou- Have you tried it recently? Does it take you back, like Proust’s madeleine?
Ted: I can taste it like it was yesterday, and I loved it. Food is such a powerful trigger of memory. For some reasons it’s just one of the things that you remember best about people when they’re gone. I can make banana pudding that tastes exactly like my grandmother’s banana puddings, and it just transports me.
AJ: So… salmon and ketchup. Banana pudding… Any other special meals that you remember from your childhood?
Ted: My mom had a friend named Dee, who I remember a dinner party she threw with, individual beef wellingtons, which was the thing at the time, And, and I’m sure it was from Julia Child, or at least inspired by her, if not straight from one of her cookbooks.
AJ: Did you watch, uh, Julia Child growing up?
Ted: I remember, yeah, uh, uh, I remember a black-and-white TV in the kitchen with rabbit ears on it…. And, and that voice.
AJ: And how is your Julia Child impression?
Ted: You must never, never cut the lettuce. You must tear the … It’s not very good.
Ted: Um, I probably learned as much … I mean, uh, then o-, then of course I remember the Saturday Night Live impersonations of her, um, and Dan Akroyd with the Bassomatic.
AJ: Yeah, a lot of Julia Child impressions are impressions of Dan Akroyd doing …
(laughs)… Julia Child.
Ted: That’s probably what I just did. Ma- mangling it.
Alright, Ted. Here’s how Twice Removed works. We’ve spent the last several months doing research, talking to historians and distant relatives… finding people related to you.
So Ted, here’s a chart and on the far left side, that’s you… And on the far right side, is your mystery relative… their name is covered up, as you can see…because, they’re a mystery.
And in between the two of you are eighty family members, all connected by blood or marriage.
We’re going to make our way straight through this chain of relatives, one relative to the next… to the next… to the next… all the way to number eighty one … and that’s your mystery relative.
AJ: So, Are there any family mysteries you’re hoping we’ll uncover?
Ted: I would like to think that we come from a family of innkeepers with fabulous pubs that serve delightfully English things like grouse, uh, and, and make wonderful ales, and of course everybody would love to know that they had a relative in the House of Lords or something, but I think i- if that ever happened in the Allen family history, somebody became a bad seed somewhere along the line.
Ted: Because there, you know, there are a lot of stories in my family, not of bad behavior, but of just rough luck. Uh, but I eagerly await learning of blacksmiths and longshoremen and roustabouts and interesting characters. I hope you find them.
TED: I would be very grateful if you do.
AJ: We’re gonna look for some roustabouts, some carnies perhaps.
TED: Carnies, w-, now that I can see. (laughs)
TED: We were, uh, we’re not a fancy lot.
Now, today, Ted, we’re gonna stop at seven people in between you and your mystery relative… and we’re gonna tell their stories.
Some are big stories, some are small stories… but they all have one thing in common… food. Your family members are a window into the food of the past… We’ve got a rifle-toting barista, we’ve got an 18th century celebrity diet icon, and despite your claims to not being from a fancy lot, we have managed to find ourselves a lord.
Ted: No kidding?
AJ: Yeah, well sort of.
Ted: That’s cool.
AJ: Yeah, we didn’t … we actually had no idea what a lord was.
Ted: I don’t know what a roustabout is and I said that …
Ted: … earlier, so …
AJ: So we’re gonna find out together …
And at the end of the show… after we’ve made our way to the end of this chain… we’re gonna bring your mystery relative into the studio… for a family reunion like no other.
Are you excited?
Ted: Can’t wait.
Alright! let’s do it!
OK, Ted. For our first stop today we are taking to the field of battle. We’re traveling to the American South for some culinary improvisation.
If you look at this map, we’re going to go four steps away from you. Past your father, past his mother, past her father, and we land on Thomas Andrew Byrd. That’s your great-great-grandfather. He was a soldier for the Confederate Army.
Ted: That’s the one whose eight-by-10 picture was in my grandma and grandpa’s house. Has, has to have been.
AJ: What did the photo look like?
It was a full-length photo. He was wearing the uniform, looking, glowering, as people
did in photos, holding his rifle, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t even know whether he survived the war.
AJ: Well we have … We can tell you.
Ted: Oh, cool.
So Ted it turns out there’s this really amazing resource about your family. It’s an obscure book that chronicles the life of your ancestors. There’s only one copy in New York. So we went and found it.
AJ: Here we are in the Milstein Division of the New York Public Library, surrounded by thousands of obscure books, and we’ve got one of the most obscure right here in front of us, Byrd History and Related Families of Averett, Calloway, Chancey, and Gough, by Tara Byrd Averett, Enterprise, Alabama. This is what we’ve been looking for.
Now the first thing I should say is that this book is massive.
AJ: That’s a good thud.
Ted: I thought you’d been shot. (laughs)
AJ: No, that was the actual thud.
Now Ted, this book is more than 900 pages. It’s basically a scrapbook on steroids, and there are newspaper clippings about your family going back centuries.
Ted: Well I’m flabbergasted. I had no idea about that. [laughs] I wonder if my mom knows.
AJ: Let me take a picture of that
So this book, this massive tome was compiled by a distant relative of yours named Tara Byrd Averett, and amidst the hundreds of Byrds, hundreds of pages, on page 542, we found lots of stuff about your great-great-grandfather,
There are letters from people who remember Thomas… even old newspaper articles where he was interviewed.
And here’s what we learned. We know Thomas grew up on your family’s ancestral farm, which was built in 1813. it was a big farm filled with cows and pigs, which were sometimes eaten by alligators, as happened in 19th century Alabama.
Ted: That still happens.
AJ: (laughs) Does it?
Ted: Not to my family.
Oh, okay. (laughs) we have pictures of him. This is him as an older man. This is at age 86 sitting next to your great-great-grandmother Katie.
Ted: He looks like fun, doesn’t he? (laughs)
AJ: Yeah. Look. (laughs) How would you describe that for people?
He’s got a big, bushy, white, droopy mustache and a, and a pronounced scowl.
AJ: And here are some more pictures. This might be the picture that you had in your …
Ted: In my grandparent’s house.
AJ: Yes. Is that the one you recognize?
Ted: Yes, that’s the one, and was he decorated? Looks like he’s got some badges on him.
AJ: Well we’re gonna get to it.
Ted: Oh boy. Okay.
Okay Ted, come along with me to 1861… Thomas has just gotten word that Alabama is joining the Confederate war effort. About 120,000 men joined the fight from Alabama. Thomas fought on the front lines for two of the war’s four years.
At the Battle of Noonday Creek, about a year before the end of the Civil War, Thomas was charging the Union Army in Georgia, (sound design starts) and he said, “Five bullets cut through my clothes without even grazing my skin, and I had about decided I would just go straddle the Yankee cannon.” And at that moment, a mini-ball, as they called bullets back then, hit him in the right leg and sent him tumbling to the ground. His buddies had to go drag him out of the line of fire. And all the while, he’s yelling, “Make it hot!” which we think is slang for, “Get your asses in gear.”
Now Ted, since food is such a big part of your life, as we traced your family history, we couldn’t help but wonder about your ancestors’ meals…. what they would’ve cooked, or eaten, and drank. And when we dug into Thomas’ life, we found a story of real ingenuity. And, it’s organic.
Right at the start of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln announced a naval blockade. All ports in the American South were essentially shut down. Nothing could get in or out. And the one thing confederate soldiers missed almost more than anything else. More than bullets… more than rifles… was coffee.
Ted: I was gonna guess whiskey.
Ted: They couldn’t get coffee. Well, wow.
And it was clear the soldiers couldn’t just skip a cup and get on with their day. A warm, bitter drink did a huge amount for morale. In fact, at Antietam, there’s this monument to William McKinley, and it commemorates the moment that he braved enemy gunfire to bring his fellow Union soldiers a hot round of coffee.
Ted: So I would, I imagine that the scarcity of coffee f-, drove them to make, to come up with coffee substitutes.
Exactly. Soldiers, like your great-great-grandfather Thomas, came up with other things that you could dry out, grind up, and pour water over to get a hot, coffee-like beverage. And there were lots of these substitutes, peas, cotton seeds, parched corn, some people literally used tree bark. And one of the most popular recipes was for okra coffee.
(Actor) Mr. Archer Griffith of Alabama gives us the following directions for preparing okra seed as a substitute for coffee.
This recipe is from the Southern Banner of Athens, Georgia, February 11th, 1863.
(Actor) He expresses himself as highly pleased with the beverage. Parch over a good fire and stir well until it is dark brown. Then take off the fire. Put the same quantity of seed in the coffee pot as you would coffee, boil well, and settle as coffee.
Ted: Doesn’t really sound that appetizing.
AJ: Well we’ve got good news for you. You are (laughs) gonna be able to know firsthand whether this is a good-
Ted: Oh wow.
Ted: Okay, cool.
AJ: So uh, yeah, we went ahead and decided to make some Confederate coffee of our own.
AJ: I am going to pour us the Confederate coffee. We have okra grounds.
Ted: Smells terrible.
Ted: It really s-, it really does smell terrible. (laughs)
AJ: (laughs) Look at that.
Ted: okay here we go. (sips)
Ted: It tastes a lot better than it smells.
AJ: Well you’re very brave for drinking it not just once, but several sips.
Ted: Well it’s really not half bad.
AJ: Look at that. We got the thumbs up from Ted Allen for substitute coffee.
Ted: I mean I’m… I’m calling it plausible. I’m not calling it delicious.
AJ: Okay, thumbs slightly up, sideways.
Ted: It’s better … It’s much … It’s not bad. It’s much, much better than I would have thought.
AJ: So you are ready to open this Brooklyn artisanal café of okra coffee.
Ted: A.J., we are, you and I are both one idea away from never having to work again.
Ted: This could be it.
Alright, Ted. Now that you’re hydrated, we’re moving on to our next story, your next relative, and a couple steps closer to your mystery relative, who is waiting patiently to meet you.
Our next stop on your family chain is just two generations back from Thomas, about 50 years earlier… 1800 or so. That’s when Thomas’s grandfather, your fourth great-grandfather, settled down in Alabama. Thomas Andrews was his name, and Thomas the elder was a farmer. He farmed sugarcane, corn, cotton, and… he was a slave owner.
Is this something your family talked about when you were growing up?
Ted: I had never- No one had ever told me anyone in my family had been a slaveholder. I mean the number one question I have is Is there any information about the slaves? do we know any information about the slaves? Do we know who those folks are?
AJ: Very little. We know there were six families. we know that they lived on shacks on the property. We know that the foreman was a slave named Ned. They called him Crosseyed Ned. And that’s pretty much the extent.
Ted: Crosseyed Ned… I guess I never really connected myself that much to it, to slavery, to that legacy of discrimination. Learning that we had slaveholders in our past makes you question. And I’m a descendant of people who grew up in the Confederacy. A corrupt, bankrupt, oppressive, horrifying, brutal institution that tore our country in half. And to think my ancestors played a part in that is painful.
We don’t know much about the people your ancestors enslaved. But we do know that enslaved people influenced southern culture in lots of ways. And we called up historian Jessica B. Harris to talk about one of them..… how enslaved Africans changed American kitchens…
Harris: Well who was cooking? The African hand in the pot of the South is what makes Southern food distinctive.
Harris is a food historian and one of the foremost experts on Southern cooking. She actually helped design the restaurant at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC.
She’s also a huge fan of one of the ingredients we’ve been talking about today.
Harris: I like okra just about any way you can make it. I like it, you know, just steamed okra. I eat okra pods if they’re really small and delicate. I eat them raw.
So you see, the history of Southern cooking is wrapped up in the history of slavery. Okra, the ingredient in that coffee you’re drinking, it’s a big part of that history. Harris says it’s a vegetable that actually made its way to the U.S. from Africa during the slave trade.
AJ: Was it the slaves who brought it over, do you know, or was it the, the people-
Harris: Slaves didn’t get a chance to pack. Let’s start there, because if you had a chance to pack, you’d get the heck out of dodge. (laughs)
AJ: Nowadays, okra and gumbo are inextricably linked with Southern cooking, but it all started with the enslaved cooks preparing food for their white captors, and it wasn’t just okra that came into Southern cooking this way.
Harris: The enslaved cooks left all sorts of techniques behind, frying in deep oil, one of those techniques that is really well done in the South. I think (laughs) nobody really needs to ask where the Colonel got his recipe.
Harris: Black-eyed peas I think people might suspect came from the African continent, but watermelon, I think that’s m-, unexpected when it is such a part of, generally speaking, an American summer that most people don’t think of it as something that came from the African continent.
By the early 1800s, all sorts of dishes created by enslaved chefs started making their way into white family cookbooks, and the recipes started spreading throughout the South.
Ted: And persist to this day all over the country. It’s, it’s remarkable how, how that became what is now considered Southern cooking.
Right, and with all of this, you can’t help but think of those Confederate soldiers using okra to make their coffee.
AJ: So what do you make of the fact that the enslavers were using the products of the
enslaved’s homeland, ultimately to fight to maintain slavery?
Harris: That’s called America. There are Southerners today who eat fried okra and love fried okra and have no idea of its origins. And we don’t, we don’t tell our full stories. And we never have.
All right, we’re gonna take a quick break, and when we come back we will meet Ted’s next relative, a colonial beekeeper.
AJ: And we keep getting closer to meeting our mystery cousin, they are in the building.
Ted: Oh no!
AJ: Yes, we’re keeping them hidden away.
Ted: Oh my gosh.
But not for much longer… after these words from our sponsors.
Welcome back to Twice Removed. We’re tracing the family history of Ted Allen, host of Chopped on the Food Network. We’re on our way to Ted’s mystery cousin, and we’ve made it back to his fourth great-grandfather, Thomas Andrews.
Okay, Ted. For our next story we are taking you back to the moment your family arrives in America.
So on that map in front of you, Ted. From Thomas Andrews, your fourth great-grandfather, we’ll go down one step to his daughter, over to her husband, and back six generations… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… and we wind up at George and Sarah Sutton, who immigrated to the United States in the 1600’s…
AJ: From England!
Ted: From England.
AJ: That is correct, George was actually born in Sandwich, so we’re keeping with the food theme here Ted.
Ted: Come on, I love sandwiches!
AJ: There you go.
Ted: I just had one.
AJ: It’s genetic.
AJ:It’s gotta be.
AJ: Now he was pretty poor, so to pay his way, he acted as a servant for another person making the trip, a man named Nathaniel Tilden. We have the record of that ship right here.
AJ: They made the trek across the Atlantic, which likely took about six weeks. That was a hard schlep.
Ted: I bet, although if George was a servant to someone affluent, at least George was p-, I presume, spending some of his time in their quarters, which was probably relatively nice, right?
AJ: I don’t even, I don’t think there was a first-class.
Ted: Okay, so, and-
AJ: I mean, they might’ve been slightly better, but you are on there, you are, it’s cramped, you are seasick, you are eating hardtack, which is like really bad matzo.
So they made the trek across the Atlantic and they landed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in April of 1634. Settling down in the town of Scituate. Now as I’m sure you can imagine, Ted, six weeks on a ship, emotions running high, you know that there are at least a couple of shipboard romances. Think Titanic but with less frozen death. And it seems like your ninth great-grandfather, George, was a part of one of those romances. With one of the boss’s daughters, Sarah.
Ted: Aha! And how did dad feel about that I wonder.
AJ: It doesn’t say.
Ted: It doesn’t say, but you could just guess. (laughs)
AJ: So two years later they get married and start a family, your family.
Now, besides a sweet love story, two things of note in this part of your tree. First, Sarah’s father, Nathaniel, when he died, he left 10 swarms of bees in his will. It’s one of the earliest record we have of beekeeping in the colonies.
Ted: Come on! That would be pretty amazing. I mean, I have beehives on my roof right now.
AJ: You do?
Ted: Yeah, they’re vacant because we failed. (laughs) We kept them going for several years. But that’s fascinating to me to hear.
I know, I love the possibility that your bees were descendants of your 10th great-grandfather’s bees.
So the beekeeping was one highlight. The second item of note is that though they landed in New England, your family did eventually move south. George and Sarah left Massachusetts because of religious persecution. They were Quakers, but Massachusetts was extremely intolerant of Quakers. So your family, George and Sarah, migrated south to North Carolina, a newer colony, much more open to non-Puritan religions. It’s surprising, given that the story we often hear is that the immigrants came to America to practice religious freedom, and here they were being persecuted in America.
Ted: Past is prologue, isn’t it?
Ted: You know, when we started this, I said how interesting it would be just to know what little town from whence we came, uh, you could go visit that place and feel something, but to learn that we had Quakers, to learn that we had Northerners, to learn that those people had to flee to a different part, is really rich, it’s really, really fascinating.
For our next few stories Ted, we’re crossing the Atlantic… We’re retracing the path your ancestors took, back to England… our first stop… the fifteen hundreds. We’re about 17 steps away from you on our chain here… that’s where we meet your ancestor… Rowland Hayward.
He’s your second cousin 13 times removed. He was a merchant, an adventurer, and by many accounts.
Carole: Oh he is an amazing man.
That was Carole Levin. She’s the director of the Medieval and Renaissance Program at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. And she’s a huge fan of Elizabethan history. And Rowland Hayward makes a very interesting cameo in her work.
Rowland was living in England in the mid-1500s, and this is right when London is beginning to expand as a global and economic cultural center. There are 80,000 people in the city, it’s full of merchants, full of beggars, they’re shouting as you walk by. Also, it smells terrible. The River Thames is basically the city’s collective outhouse.
He was widely known in the textile industry. He dealt in silk and fabric exports. But that’s not all.
Carole: In 1570, he became Lord Mayor of London himself.
Ted: Come on!
Carole: He was known as one of the great Lord Mayors of Elizabethan London.
Ted: Holy cow! (laughs) So it wasn’t all just roustabouts … (laughs)
AJ: You got your lord!
Ted: The Lord Mayor of London. To think that we would’ve had somebody who was actually respectable …
Ted: … in Elizabethan E- England is fantastic to me.
AJ: You are the-
Ted: The Lord Mayor of London!
AJ: You are a descendant of lords.
Now because of his position, Rowland Hayward was actually invited to one of the most exclusive meals in the history of Western civilization. In the year 1559, Sir Rowland Hayward attended the coronation feast of none other than Queen Elizabeth the First.
As you probably know, Queen Elizabeth is one of the most significant monarchs in history. Famously the redheaded virgin queen. She ruled for about 45 years. And her coronation feast was about as grand an event as you can imagine.
AJ: It would have been in a great hall. Lit by candlelight. Giant tables fill the room. And sitting at one of those tables? Your ancestor, Rowland Hayward.
Carole: That was a great honor for him as quite a young man. He’d be wearing a beautiful doublet, hose, which are kind of like tights, probably a cloak.
And out comes the food, serving after serving of food.
Stuart: The first wave of the meal, you start off with 16 major dishes. So this could be something like a kid with a pudding in the belly or a goose or whatever. And at the period you might’ve been able to get a hold of swan, but nowadays the Queen owns them all so we’re not allowed to attack those. (laughs)
This is Stuart Peachey. He’s a living historian on a farm in England, which means he gets paid to farm, cook, and eat like they would in the Elizabethan era. Now Stuart says we don’t have the complete menu from the coronation, but we actually do have a pretty good idea of what a typical wealthy person’s feast would have looked like in the mid-1500s. It started with 16 major dishes.
Stuart: And you have 16 minor dishes alongside that, so little fried dishes, things like side salads, so 32 dishes in the first wave.
AJ: That’s insane.
Stuart: Hang on, hang on, we’re not there yet. You then have either two or three waves. So you’re looking at 96 dishes.
AJ: 96 dishes?
Stuart: Oh no no no, we haven’t finished yet. That’s for the feast. Now when you finish the feast, you go either to a different building or to a different room and you start the banquet. Um, and then it might easily be just for a, a small-scale one like this, say another 48, 50 dishes, so something like 150 dishes.
AJ: That is pathological.
Now one of the most interesting parts of the coronation banquet would’ve been the dessert. Are you familiar with sugarworks?
Ted: I’m not.
Well sugarworks are these elaborate sculptures made of sugar or marzipan. They would flatten it and then they would sculpt it. So we had to see if we could recreate one of these sugarworks, and luckily we found a bakery here in New York to help us out. So, why don’t we go ahead and bring it in.
Ted: Wow. A swan.
AJ: This is a swan made completely of sugar.
Ted: That is beauti- … You can get anything in this town. (laughs) So this is a s-, a, a beautiful, translucent, white swan, about eight inches tall, the feathers look to have been s-, individually made and then stuck on, or maybe they were carved. It’s quite elegant.
So this is a near replica of a dish that your ancestor Roland Hayward would’ve eaten at the coronation, and there would’ve been lots of sugarworks like this. I feel a little guilty because it’s such a beautiful sculpture, but I, I do think we have to try it. We have to break off part of the swan.
Ted: The tips of the wings will co-, probably … Oh, it’s actually …
AJ: You don’t want to, uh, behead. You don’t want to have a-
Ted: Well we could. We could. I mean it’s, so it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s just, it’s, it’s sugar that’s been molten and then sort of carved?
AJ: Oh, I just ripped off the whole wing.
Ted: You ripped the whole wing off.
AJ: Um …
Ted: Could use a little bit of acidity. A little bit of citric acid …
Ted: … would be, would be nice, a little orange or something. But it’s real-, it’s so beautiful, and you can just imagine in a, a great hall filled with these fantastic sculptures.
AJ: It is amazing.
Our next stop, is just a pit stop, really. We’re gonna go back in time 100 years. Pretty far back, but I think you’ll be able to relate to this one. We’re gonna go about 20 steps on our chain, to your next ancestor… a man named Robert Drury. Born in 1454 in Suffolk, England. Does that name ring a bell to you, Ted? Robert Drury?
Ted: Not at all.
I’m nearly positive you’ve heard the name before. Take a listen to this.
Brittany: (singing – ‘Do you know the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man. Do you know the muffin man who lives on drury lane?)
Ted: I’ve heard that.
So Robert Drury is the namesake of Drury Lane, the same Drury Lane made famous by the children’s rhyme “Do You Know the Muffin Man.” So Ted Allen, you are related to Mr. Drury Lane himself. You two share a 15th great-grandmother.
Ted: That’s spectacular. And was he actually himself the muffin man or did he-
AJ: He was not the muffin man.
Ted: He was not the muffin man.
AJ: But he was very integral to the muffin man’s existence.
We did some research to figure out exactly why the muffin man lived on Drury Lane and what it would’ve been like.
Robert Drury was this wealthy man. He was Speaker of the House in London’s Parliament. And he built this enormous mansion on an old road back at the end of the 15th century.
And this road was named Drury Lane, after him. Now when he first built the home, the road was pretty quiet, but over time as the house was passed down through the generations, Drury Lane became something much more sinister than that children’s rhyme….Because three hundred years later, the house had been turned into a pub, and Drury Lane had become one of the sleaziest streets in London.
Actor: In our way the coach drove through a lane by Drury Lane, where an abundance of loose women stood at the doors.
AJ: Well that was (laughs) from-
Ted: That, that’s the kind of legacy I was looking for. (laughs)
(laughs) That, I believe, that was from a member of Parliament. That was Samuel Pepys writing in his famous diary.
Actor: Which, God forgive me, did put evil thoughts in me, but proceeded no further.
Blessed be God.
Ted: Yeah right.
You don’t trust Samuel. Now, there were said to have been more than 107 pleasure houses on Drury Lane. And there’s this famous set of paintings by Hogarth called A Harlot’s Progress, which is like this old-time comic strip, and it shows a young woman moving to London, becoming a prostitute, going to prison, and dying of syphilis, all on Drury Lane.
Ted: Well that went well.
(laughs) SO, The muffin man in the song is probably referencing a street vendor. At the time, English muffins were the equivalent of halal meat or the hot dogs you might get on the street here in New York …
Ted: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
They were cheap food, just, meant to fill up your belly.
Ted: That’s cool.
Drury Lane MUSIC
Okay so Ted… we have made it… our last story before you get to meet your mystery relative…
Ted: I can’t wait!
So, while Drury Lane was a hotbed of vice and corruption… at the same time … on a different street in London, Holles Street … your next ancestor was born. Now Ted, I know you’re very concerned about being related to roustabouts… but actually… there are some very fancy people in your family. You’ve got members of Parliament. You got a Lord Mayor of London. And now, 15 steps away from Robert Drury, you’ve got one of the great Romantics of all time, Lord Byron.
Ted: You’ve gotta be kidding me.
AJ: No, another lord.
Ted: The Byron?
AJ: The Byron.
Ted: The poet Byron?
AJ: Yes, another writer like yourself.
Ted: I don’t know that I would compare myself, my writing to that of Byron, but um, I, I do write.
AJ: (laughs) You both are in the same general area. So Lord Byron is your 12th cousin four times removed.
Louise: And Lord Byron was born into the british aristocracy, born in 1788, died in 1824. pale and beautiful. He was a terribly clever young man.
This is Louise Foxcroft. She is a Fellow at Magdalen College in Cambridge and author of Calories and Corsets, a book about the history of eating habits. Lord Byron was most famous as a poet known throughout the Western world. He wrote poems like “She Walks In Beauty,” and perhaps most notably, “Don Juan.”
Actor: Man, being reasonable, must get drunk. The best of life is but intoxication, glory, the grape, love, gold. In these are sunk the hopes of all men and of every nation.
Louise: Yeah, he was, he was one of the original bad boys. I, I mean his reputation was infamous. Uh, his life was full of scandal, and he did relish that and played up to it, and in fact he would escape to Europe whenever a scandal got too great, you know, an affair with a married woman, he had various children all over the place.
He was this turn of the century celebrity, and in that right, he was also a bit of a celebrity pioneer.
Louise: Well, I would argue that Byron was the first celebrity dieter.
Now Lord Byron is mostly remembered as this slight, beautiful man, but like the best of us, he actually had a lot of demons lurking in the pantry.
Louise: Contemporaries said of him that he had a morbid propensity to, to fatten. Um, as T.S. Eliot said, he’s g-, he had quite a pudgy face. And as George Elliot, um, recorded him as having the horror of fat. So he obviously did put on weight very, very easily.
AJ: What was Lord Byron’s diet? What did he eat? What did he eat on an average day?
Louise: One of his favorite diets was just, uh, wine and water with biscuits, and then something else he would eat would be potatoes flattened, by which I assume he means mashed, um, soaked in vinegar.
Now, what’s most astonishing about this fixation on his weight, it’s not just speculation. We actually have a record of what Lord Byron weighed at different points in his life. As you know, there were no bathroom scales, but, if someone wanted to learn badly enough what they weighed, there were methods.
Louise: The wine merchants in St. James in London, Berry Brothers and Rudd, they had hanging scales there, and lots of the dandies of the day would go there and weigh themselves. And Berry Brothers and Rudd kept, um, a record book, so you can still see the record of Byron’s weight zipping up and down, you know, as he was dieting.
We know that he weighed himself first in 1806 when he was 18, and he weighed at 13-stone 12 pounds at that point, which is borderline obese. By 1811 he was back under nine-stone, so that’s a five-stone loss.
Oh and we did the calculations and that’s about a 70 pound weight loss… so, pretty serious.
Louise: Yeah. The whole medical profession were up in arms because a lot of young people were following him by eating white rice and drinking vinegar, in order to get that sort of romantic, you know, pale, ethereal, poetic, consumptive-looking appearance…
it transpires that in 1822, he’d starved himself into such a very poor state of health, um, that he was really suffering, even though he knew and he wrote that obsessive dieting was the cause of more than half our maladies.
Foxcroft said that Bryon’s anxieties about his weight were tied up in the very words he was writing. Byron felt that in order to write beautiful things, he himself needed to feel beautiful.
Ted: I can’t wait to tell the rest of my family that we have Lord Byron in our, in our ancestry.
AJ: He is your blood relative.
AJ: 12th cousin, four times removed.
Ted: 12th cousin, four times removed. Amazing.
AJ: So there, it’s in the genes.
So we’ve done it. We have made it. We have been through 80 relatives, and we have arrived at your the final stop. So Are you ready to meet your distant cousin?
Ted: I guess as ready as I’ll ever be, yeah, sure.
AJ: Okay, let’s do it. Right after these words from our sponsors.
Ted: We do that on Chopped too.
Ted: I know what you’re doing.
AJ: It’s a cliffhanger.
AJ: Keep them coming back!
Welcome back to Twice Removed. We have done it! We have made it to the end of Ted Allen’s family chain. We’ve heard about your southern roots and the confederacy, we’ve heard about banquets, and muffins and diets. And we are ready to meet Ted Allen’s mystery cousin. Ted, are you ready for real this time?
AJ: And your mystery relative is..
Ted: Here it is, the verdict.
(sound of door opening)
Ted: Come on, you’re good at this!
Ted: I’ve read your work.
AJ: Ok, so mystery relative, can you go ahead and introduce yourself
Alex: I’m Alex Prud’homme.
AJ: what do you do for a living, Alex?
Alex: Uh, I’m a journalist. But i’m actually better known as the coauthor of Julia Child’s memoir it’s called My Life in France.
And how did you get that gig writing with Julia Child?
Alex: Julia was my great-aunt.
AJ: So you are a relative of Julia Child, which means, Ted, you are a relative of Julia Child.
Ted: (Laughs) It’s amazing.
AJ: You guys are officially 17th cousins by blood. Now did you, Ted, ever meet Julia Child?
Ted: I never did. Nope, I missed it.
Alex: Ah, que domage!
Ted: I, um-
Alex: You guys would’ve loved each other. (laughs)
Ted: Well I, well thank you. That’s kind of you to say. I hope so. I certainly loved her, uh, wit and her sort of impishness and how much she loved to have a glass of wine going while she was cooking. And I think that everything to do with the way I love to cook and the way I think most people do. It’s celebrating. It’s having fun. It’s playing music and …
Ted: And it’s not about being fussy and pretentious.
AJ: Speaking of which, we do have our final dish, courtesy of Alex. We asked him if he had a suggestion for a desert, and he has Julia Child’s, this is apple tartine, is, what is it?
Alex: Uh, it’s a tarte tatin.
Ted: A tarte tatin! Lovely.
Alex: Which is a beautiful, caramelized apple dessert. It’s, uh, sliced apples, uh, that are on a pastry base. Now Julia was a little bit obsessed with this dish, and this is why I picked this, because she made four different recipes for this. But if you go back and look at some of her old shows, it shows her making the tarte tatin. There’s a classic one, it’s from 1971, it’s from the Season Two of The French Chef.
Video: Welcome to The French Chef. I’m Julia Child. Today we’re gonna do a very famous apple dessert called la tarte tatin. There it is, and I’m gonna hide it from view until we get farther along with it…
Alex: She, uh, makes the dessert and she, um, she pulls the pan out of the oven and she flips the pan over to, uh, present the apple dish. Out comes what really looks like burnt applesauce. It’s a mess. (laughs)
Video: “that’s too bad”
Alex: And you can see in her face, she’s kind of obsessing.
Video: I’m just gonna watch that. When you’re doing this yourself, there’s an experiment you should do, both mushy apples and other apples. I think that actually makes a more interesting dessert.
Alex: She tries to make the best of it. And as you were saying earlier, the story of food it entails personal narrative, issues of gender, race, class. I mean really food in a way is kind of a shorthand, it’s like an encapsulation. And I- my personal theory is that one reason Julia started to write down recipes and teach them, is that each recipe became a little short story. And there was a story behind each recipe, how she discovered it, how she invented her own approach, her own technique. I think we all have that to a certain extent. For me, the tart tatin, I eat this, it’s delicious, and it brings me back to all sorts of memories.
Ted: It transports you like almost nothing else. I think we need to dig into this thing!
AJ: Alright, let’s do it. How should we- I don’t know, am I the cutter?
Alex: Oh yeah, here we go. Do the honors.
Aj: I should have waited for you Ted. Sorry
Ted: What’s that?
AJ: I should have waited for you. I couldn’t stop myself.
Ted: You’ve got to be careful. I ate a marshmallow once on live television, big mistake. It takes a while to get through one of those.