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Friday, December 17, 2010

The Holiday Jam

I'm always a fan of a good holiday special. Christmas in Washington (c'mon, it's Mrs. Nick Cannon, after all), everything on HGTV (I just love watching new ways to decorate Christmas trees), Charlie Brown Christmas - they're all glittering brain candy. And then came the Food Jammers. For those of you not familiar with the Food Jammers, they are a trio of vintage t-shirted, scraggly-haired hip denizens of a cramped loft apartment loaded with odds and ends rescued from city curb sides and junkyards who have a show on the Cooking channel, the latest spawn of America's push-pull relationship with food.

The Food Jammers aren't recipe jockeys, per say. They like to over-complicate the process of food preparation - for instance hollowing out logs in order to make a Holiday Log Train (complete with a track and wheels) for their feast. I mean, hell, you can venture over to Sur la Table and buy serving platters, but, that's a little too clean and corporate for the Food Jammers. And as the garage band track plays in the background, off they go on a quest for the perfect guinea fowl, chestnuts, and squash in order to round out their holiday feast.

If it sounds like I might have a problem with the Food Jammers, well, maybe I do. But here's really what irritates and fascinates me. These 3 dudes represent the ultimate man-child. They look to be in their 30s, driving the streets of Seattle/Portland/San Fran or wherever in their beater car, with each scratch, dent, and ding a badge of honor in their fight NOT to become The Man. The trio are soft-spoken, overly cooperative creatures, whose SAT vocabularies and sophisticated foodie sensibilities would seem at odds with their personal appearance. I suspect that we've all seen this guy, hell, I dated a HIPSTER version 1.0 back in graduate school.

But these heroes of the Mumblecore, ironic wearers of flannel with unrepentant growths of weird or sparse facial hair seem a bit out of step in the current celebrity food universe.

Celebrity chefs seem to have a lot more testosterone.There are the tatted-up, faux-hawked, iron-pumping, potty-mouthed men of Top Chef who will kick your booty if you dare to talk smack about their mise en place or butchering skills. There's Bobby Flay who brings the fight to you in your own kitchen with his Throwdown show. Guy Fieri, with more rings on his fingers than Karl Lagerfeld, and his Susan Powter Stop the Insanity hairdo, looks like he could scrap if he needed to. And you just know that Gordon Ramsay would and could smack up a chef (that's probably why he yells at them all so furiously - the popo can't pop you for mouthing off at somebody).

So are the Food Jammers a rejection of chef as stud? There's certainly something playful, even child-like about them. They seem to want to play - play with their food, with the systems and processes used to prepare their food.

Maybe it's all Jamie Oliver's fault, with his adorable way of saying "mushy peas", his love of a good pint shared with his mates in his wee tiny flat wearing flannel and Chuck Taylors and OH MY GOD!!!! - this is ALL Jamie Oliver's fault!

Or maybe the existence of the Food Jammers represents a shift in how men in the kitchen are beginning to see themselves. Maybe the Food Jammers are making a new path, one that requires less swagger and more curiosity, wonder and awe at how food comes to your table.
Don't get me wrong, I shall still mock them, but, in the spirit of the HIPSTER, I shall do so ironically and wearing a tattered, vintage screen-printed ring-tee. Ah, but I must go now, for their holiday log train has hit a snag - looks like they'll need to scavenge the wheels off of one of their many skateboards so that the holiday log train will keep rolling.

I'm just saying!

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