On last week’s Parks and Recreation Aziz Ansari’s Tom Haverford gave a glorious monologue listing his special names for various foods (’Zerts, Chickie-Chickie Parm-Parm etc.). Yesterday, his neologisms birthed its own website, TomHaverfoods. Last night, at the Time 100 Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall at Lincoln Center, we caught up with both Ansari and his co-star Amy Poehler, and asked them how this food slang came to be. (Poehler was being honored as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. When we asked her how the influencing was going, she told us, “Here’s my quote for New York Magazine: I’m influencing so many people tonight, that if you shake my hand and drive home, you might get arrested for a DUI.”) We spoke to Poehler and Ansari separately, but have combined their interviews into what we hope is just the first installment of an oral history on Tom Haverfoods.
How did Tom Haverford’s food naming come about?
Poehler: Isn’t that great. [Tells friend.] Last episode of Parks, Aziz did this run, the character of Tom did this run where he, like, talked about how he shortens everything. He calls appetizers “apps” and desserts “zerts,” and he goes on this run where he calls root beer “super water” and—fuck, I wish I remembered more … they’re so good — chicken parm is “chickie-chickie parm-parm” and “chicken catch” is chicken cacciatore and it ends with forks as “food rakes.” They’re so stupid. But there was a long run of it.
Did Aziz come up with them all?
Poehler: No, that was the writers. And then I think they were just throwing stuff at him as he was doing it. I think he might have improvised one or two.
Ansari: They had one that was written and I think I improvised a couple of them, and they put them all together and it was that long thing. I was surprised they made it that long thing, but I was glad they were into it.
Which ones did you improvise?
Ansari: I think chickie-chickie parm-parm and chickie-catch were mine, but I can’t remember. The writers are so awesome, and I feel bad because people always ask me if this stuff is improvised and it’s usually written.
A website just went up called Tomhaverfoods.com.
Poehler : Oh my God! Aziz is going to freak when he sees it. He’s such a foodie. He’s an epicurean. He’s always tweeting about food.
Ansari: I know, I saw that. It’s so funny; I’m glad people are into it.
Poehler: And I heard they made the turkey leg and hamburger thing for Ron Swanson. Ron Swanson talks a lot about his meat products, and there’s a website where they cook the things that Ron Swanson talks about. And there’s a turkey leg stuffed inside a meat patty, and then grilled.
Have they sent it to the show?
Poehler: They just put it on the Internet. Oh my God, I would never taste mysterious meat sent to me in a package.
Aziz, do you use slang for food at all?
Ansari: I do call sandwiches sammies, and what else? I do say sammies; I prefer saying that. The website had some good ones. My favorite was “biscuits are butter boats.” That was good.
Amy, do you actually owe Aziz $15,000 like he says in your Time 100 essay?
Poehler: Yes, there is a company called Excalibur Equity that he invested his mother’s last $15,000 in, and I just keep telling him, “You gotta wait! Money, you have to wait for it to grow.” It’s a bunch of condos in Florida, and we’re gonna make it happen.
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