A few weeks ago, Deborah Solomon printed an exchange in her weekly New York Times Magazine interview that lingered in my mind. She asked poet laureate Charles Simic what advice he'd offer to people "who are looking to be happy."
"For starters, learn how to cook," he said.
It looked like Simic voiced his first thought, and it's simple, unexpected and profound all at once. I wondered how others would reply to the same question. So, seeing as I was covering an art opening and had the opportunity, I asked Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi.
“I think he’s right,” she said with dynamic intelligence, adding that she remembered reading the item. Her eyes filled with mischief. “They didn’t laureate him for nothing,” she said.
When I grinned, she grew alarmed. She leaned toward me, tapping me on the shoulder for emphasis as she spoke. She asked me not to use the quote, concerned that her playfulness would be removed from context, and people would assume she spoke with sincerity. She always forgets, she told me, that it's trouble to joke in interviews. Her amended answer was generic drivel about creativity and nurturing.