Whoopi Goldberg returns to the New York City Wine & Food Festival on Oct. 18 to host Chicken Coupe, a tasting that showcases the myriad ways international chefs spice up and fry up this wondrous everyday bird. Here, the Emmy-, Grammy-, Oscar- and Tony-winning actress, comic and co-host of The View riffs on everything from what she wishes she could do on a park bench to what she’s afraid would happen in a Martian invasion—yes, a Martian invasion.
I don’t cook. It’s not my thing. It’s a very special person who can cook, who can be patient and wait for something to be done, and it never sort of came around for me. I’m not a big foodie. But I am learning how to eat because, apparently, if you don’t eat, your body thinks you’re starving.
I helped the Wine & Food Festival decide to do the Chicken Coupe. I was doing something for Rachael Ray one year, because she wasn’t able to attend, and I said, “You know, you guys should do a fried chicken thing.” And they were like, “Really?” And I was like, “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind being a part of that.” And the next thing I knew, there I was.
I think fried chicken is wonderful. Lots of people have different ways of making it, seasoning it and making the flavors coexist, which is always interesting to taste. I like any food that makes people happy. And there’s lots of cultures that have taken it up. The Korean culture has always had fried chicken. The Chinese have always had fried chicken. So now people are starting to say, “Oh, it’s not soul food”—meaning black people food—“it’s food for the soul.” Unlike an egg, which is a whole other thing...
I hate eggs. I have eggs in me, and I don’t want to eat an egg. I don’t know if it’s cannibalistic, but, if a Martian comes from another world, I don’t want to be looked upon like a chicken. It’s kind of odd, I know, but that’s how I think.
I was in New York until the mid-’70s, and I was just a mom then. New York was the place where you couldn’t tell who was rich and who was poor. I loved it for that reason. It’s like a melting pot of different countries and smells and aromas. It’s a no-bullsh*t city. It’s a real city, and real stuff goes on in it. It wasn’t so cutesy before, but it had cute elements.
We used to have a thing called “Phil D. Basket,” to get people to stop littering. So you’d see this guy in commercials, this hands-on guy, and his name was Phil D. Basket. It’s kind of fabulous.
There were also commercials telling you all the things you could do in New York. At City Center you could sing with every opera. If you didn’t have money, you could still go see a show or go to the museum. There was nothing you couldn’t participate in. And I don’t know when it changed. When I was growing up, it was all for everybody, and that’s what I miss—the inclusiveness. And I think Bloomberg has tried to put it back, but then he’s sort of stretched it out in a different way.
I moved to New Jersey because one of the things that’s tough in NYC is to go and sit on a bench. I can’t go and sit on a bench if I’m not willing to talk to 30, 40 other people who also want to sit on the bench—with me. Which is okay, but if you just want to sit on the bench and think, you can’t do it. I tried. And once I took the job I have now, it made it even harder, so I got a place where I could actually be outside and be OK, because I have a little bit of land, so it makes me happy.
I have a very old, weird house, which is great. But I’m not going to say where it is, though you probably already know. I’m just going to say it’s Jersey.
I always try to get out there and exercise my brain, so I never stop touring. I don’t do the characters anymore. I do all kinds of strange stuff that comes in my head. And you can’t go wrong with menopause. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
If there’s one thing I’d change about this country, I’d like to have everyone remember the promise of America, what it meant, why we did it. I’d like to leave all the things that break us up. Not just the politics, though. It’s some attitude that people have given themselves that says, ‘I’m better,’ you know? ‘You people can’t be here, but you people can.’ It’s like, wait a minute, we’re all immigrants. Unless you’re Native American, you’re an immigrant. We’re all here by invitation. Well, not all of us. Some of us got sort of put here...
But this idea that people coming to this country don’t have the right to hopes and dreams? I want everybody to just take a minute and go, “Wait. OK. What was the promise of America? That you could come to this country and maybe make something of yourself.” What does it say on Lady Liberty’s tablet? I want people to remember what those words mean. I want people to watch Roots again. I want people to remember what we’re doing here and who we are.
You know how people say, “Well, if you do this, the terrorists win”? Well, you know when the terrorists win big? When we’re divided as a nation. That’s my humble opinion.