Leigh Sales on lob­ster sup­pers, spe­cial ap­ples and Paul McCart­ney.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Contents -

What was in your lunch­box grow­ing up?

I al­ways hated hav­ing to eat a packed lunch. In Queens­land, it al­ways got so ran­cid be­cause of the heat. I re­fused to have a sand­wich be­cause it would get sweaty and hor­ri­ble. I used to eat fruit and Vita-Weats.

Old-school Chi­nese fare like sweet-and-sour pork, spring rolls and beef in black-bean sauce.

There was a huge story in the early ’90s about James Scott, a med­i­cal stu­dent who went miss­ing in the Hi­malayas and was mirac­u­lously found af­ter around 40 days in freez­ing con­di­tions. I scored an in­ter­view with one of his hik­ing com­pan­ions, who hap­pened to be the brother of one of my best friends.

One of your ear­li­est sto­ries was about char­ity lunches for the home­less. What did you take away from it?

How lucky I was to not be home­less on Christ­mas Day.

You were the ABC’s Wash­ing­ton cor­re­spon­dent dur­ing an event­ful pe­riod of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. How was it cov­er­ing 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina?

That was a mas­sive news pe­riod to be there and a very scary time for the world. I re­mem­ber be­ing so shocked at the dev­as­ta­tion wrought by Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina. I vis­ited Biloxi right on the coast and it was like a pile of tooth­picks. It was hard to be­lieve it had ever been full of build­ings.

Did you be­come a fan of Amer­i­can food?

I ate some truly dread­ful food, but had some amaz­ing meals, too. I did a road trip with my friend Melissa through Maine, Nova Sco­tia and Prince Ed­ward Is­land and we had the most in­cred­i­ble lob­ster sup­pers al­most every night in com­mu­nity halls. We’d start with a bucket of mus­sels, have a lob­ster each, and then a slice of what­ever pie was on of­fer.

In your new book, Any Or­di­nary Day, you write of your role host­ing 7.30, “I some­times in­ter­view peo­ple on the best days of their lives and of­ten on the worst.” How do you pre­pare for that?

It’s hard. I ask the pro­duc­tion team to let me know if there’s any par­tic­u­larly con­fronting ma­te­rial in the sto­ries. I try to re­main de­tached if the ma­te­rial is very sad or emo­tional. I find an­i­mal cru­elty and child abuse sto­ries very hard to take.

In the book you’re also up­front about the uter­ine rup­ture you suf­fered dur­ing the birth of your sec­ond child. What made you feel ready to write about this?

The fact it had had such a pro­found im­pact on me as a per­son and my view of the fragility of life.

The like­li­hood of some­one hav­ing MS and be­ing a ter­ror­ist’s hostage is one in 1.39 bil­lion, but that’s what hap­pened to Louisa Hope, who is in­ter­viewed in your book. Do you of­ten think about luck and the role it plays in our lives?

All the time. I am grate­ful for where I am, be­cause it is mostly due to an ac­ci­dent of birth. I don’t be­lieve in God or for­tunes or any­thing like that, but I do find my­self do­ing silly su­per­sti­tious ri­tu­als, things like, “If this light stays green, then the Prime Min­is­ter will say yes for a 7.30 in­ter­view tonight.”

Dur­ing a dif­fi­cult time in your life your friends dropped off din­ners with en­ter­tain­ing la­bels. What was the “Trump’s ‘Grab ’Em By The Pussy’ Chicken and Ve­g­ies” like?

Ha! That one was ba­si­cally roast chicken and ve­g­ies, noth­ing that had any real con­nec­tion to Don­ald Trump. My friends pro­vid­ing food is a prac­ti­cal way of show­ing they care. My friend Ping dropped me off a fish pie re­cently when my fa­ther died and it was so com­fort­ing. I try to do the same for oth­ers in re­turn.

You ate at Blue Hill in Man­hat­tan dur­ing a re­cent trip to New York. How was it?

Usu­ally I’m very scep­ti­cal of that kind of din­ing. I al­ways feel like, “Am I about to be the kind of rube who pays $45 for a raw car­rot? How good can a car­rot be?” The an­swer is that it can be ex­tra­or­di­nary. Ev­ery­thing about Blue Hill was flaw­less. The last thing they served was an apple cut into slices. The va­ri­ety of apple was a snap­dragon, which I don’t think we have in Aus­tralia. It was the most as­ton­ish­ingly de­li­cious apple I’ve ever eaten. I felt tears well in my eyes – it was that per­fect.

You scored the only Aus­tralian TV in­ter­view that Paul McCart­ney gave dur­ing his tour last year. Say­ing it was a big deal for you might be an un­der­state­ment.

My par­ents owned Help!, Rub­ber Soul and Re­volver, so they were the first Bea­tles al­bums I ever heard. I’m a mas­sive fan and meet­ing him was one of the great­est days of my life.

You also got to play the “Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Tour” pi­ano he’s used on­stage for 30 years. How did it feel to hit the same keys he has?

I don’t think I was that happy on my own wed­ding day.

Play School

My kids think so. They were far more ex­cited by that than they are by me ap­pear­ing on 7.30.

I wish I had time to break out the pop­corn! I’m al­ways the one at the cen­tre of the ac­tion on TV. Huge news days are very in­tense and I am wrung out af­ter­wards.

You and Annabel Crabb men­tioned a recipe for “Chat­ters’ Crack” on your podcast,

that ended up go­ing vi­ral. What’s in it?

Chat 10 Looks 3,

It’s ba­si­cally a slice made of Sal­adas, tof­fee, choco­late and toasted al­monds. It went ab­so­lutely in­sane among the lis­ten­ers of Chat 10. We heard that sales of Sal­adas went crazy.

Any Or­di­nary Day

(Pen­guin Ran­dom House, pbk, $34.99) is out now. 7.30 is on the ABC Mon­day to Thurs­day each week.

Every night we’d start with a bucket of mus­sels, have a lob­ster each, then fin­ish with a slice of pie.

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