Dinner and a show
Cooking and singing on the air with Mama Rose
Rosemary Febbo loves good food. She loves to eat it, and she loves to prepare it.
“I never trained as a chef,” offered Febbo, “but I grew up in an Italian family with lots of great food around me. … I really pride myself on being able to put together a really fine meal on very short notice.”
Febbo, a cheery, robust woman with an infectious smile, taught natural-food cooking classes in Los Angeles before moving to Chico in the early 1970s, and she seems to take great pride in enlightening others to the joys and healthful aspects of good eating. As many locals know, Febbo is the one-woman crew—programmer, writer, interviewer, food expert—behind Chico community radio station KZFR’s Mama Rose’s Kitchen, a food-focused show that airs two or three Tuesdays a month from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“My main goal,” said Febbo of her popular lunch-hour program, “is to inform people about good food and what it is to eat well. And I really love to turn people on to the idea of cooking.”
In the nearly seven years since she first debuted Mama Rose’s Kitchen as a 15-minute segment on KZFR’s Gourmet Buffet show, Febbo has been turning on listeners to her favorite recipes and food-themed music, news about food, and regular live interviews with culinary experts—both local and nationally known.
A recent Mama Rose show featured a thought-provoking interview with food activist Mark Winne, author of Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, a book that explores the stark difference between the nutrition of the poor and the well-off in the United States.
On the day of Winne’s phoned-in appearance, Febbo conducted the first half-hour of her show according to her usual recipe. After playing her lively theme song, she updated her listeners on important goings-on, such as the fact that asparagus is coming into season (“When the asparagus starts to show, you know that spring is coming,” she advised, before offering instructions on how to whip up a fresh-asparagus frittata). She then did a short, in-studio interview with Kathy Chance and Colleen Cecil of the Butte County Farm Bureau about April 17’s California Nut Festival at Patrick Ranch.
Interspersed throughout Febbo’s show, as usual, was a sprinkling of “food-centric” songs she likes, such as Putamayo artist Jay Mankita’s “Eat Like a Rainbow.”
She has interviewed a number of big-gun foodies, such as chef and cookbook author James Peterson, Nell Newman of “Newman’s Own” fame and Ann Cooper, the Renegade Lunch Lady. Oddly enough, though, some of Febbo’s most memorable interviews over the years (five of them in partnership with Loretta Metcalf, when the show was called Mangia with the Mamas) have been with musicians.
“I loved having Dick Dale on,” she beamed about the surf-guitar legend. “And [singer-songwriter] Holly Near—she was great.
“People ask me, ‘Why do you interview musicians?’” Febbo continued, “and my answer is, ‘Musicians are creative onstage. If they have the opportunity to be in the kitchen, they’re going to be creative.’”
Febbo recalled an interview she did with some of the members of New Orleans rock group the subdudes.
“One of them gave me a jambalaya recipe,” she said. “”There’s always one person in [every] band who loves to cook, bar none.”
Febbo summed up her mission with Mama Rose this way: “KZFR’s mission statement is ‘to inform, enlighten and entertain.’ I really think my show covers all three. … I always encourage fresh, good food. Without your health, you have very little.”