Saturday, May 13, 2006

"Jack the Pom Pom"

We have recently discovered that the girls, particularly Madison, love to watch cooking shows. I guess it's no huge surprise, they have a big play kitchen in our living room that is stocked with fake food, pots and pans, plates and utensils, and they love to stand around it and make meals for us. In fact the coffee with the Sunday New York Times experience Gwen and I enjoyed in our apartment in the city pre-kids has been replaced by coffee with the Sunday New York Times sitting on the couch of our suburban home while the girls "cook" our breakfast and bring it to us. The chicken drumstick with side of green beans, amorphous plastic blob of red pasta sauce and pineapple top is the meal to get.

The first cooking show that really resonated with the girls was the Jacques Pépin series, "Fast Food My Way," which we watch on a digital cable channel we get here called WLIW-Create.

Ava calls Jacques "Jack the Pom Pom" - thinks this is his name - and will frequently hoist her sippy cup in the air and recite his signature line, "Happy Cooking!" while looking for someone else at the table to toast with. I'm not making this up. Jacques has so pervaded our consciousness that, in addition to family-friendly viewing, he now provides time analogies while driving in the car. We figure a 30-minute show is good for three to four recipes, so driving time is marked in multiples of "Jack shows" (30 minutes), and "Jack recipes" (10 minutes). A trip to my parents' house, which is about 45 minutes away, is described at the outset as "One Jack show plus one and a half Jack recipes," and moves down from there. When we are in the car Madison asks for a time update about every three minutes, so this system has been helpful.

The girls were so into watching Jacques that earlier this year I actually went looking for his contact information on the Web to request a signed photo for each of them. I thought they would get a kick out of receiving mail from someone they watched on television... Jack the Pom Pom.

Years ago I probably would have wound up with some literary agent, a production company, business office - some machinery built to shield and protect the "talent" I was trying to reach. In the world of Google, in about five minutes, I wound up with Jacques Pépin's home phone number, address, a map and satellite image of his neighborhood and driving directions that would have been very helpful in the event I had any interest in visiting him there. (Don't worry, Jacques, we respect your physical privacy) I sent him a very flattering (and accurate) letter letting him know about his two youngest fans and received a prompt reply from his assistant, who said Jacques and his wife were traveling in Mexico and he would be happy to send the signed photos when he returned. Several weeks later they arrived, with another nice note from the assistant. Classy guy, great cook, good safe and unthreatening child viewing, we have found, except when he's de-boning a chicken or gutting a whole fish, at which point our television has a momentary lapse in service, which is mysteriously resolved when the menu item has become indistinguishable.


As noted above, Jacques reigns supreme in our house, but here are some other cooks/cooking shows that are in our steady rotation:

Daisy Martinez (very close second to Jacques... sometimes actually takes the lead. Unbelievable amount of energy and joy. If everything she makes is really as good as she presents during her little on-screen tastings she may be the best cook on the planet)

Lidia Bastianich (great show, unbelievable recipies, also offers an organic opportunity to tell the girls about their Italian heritage, which is not in any way getting through at this stage)

Tina Nordström (have to be careful here... she sometimes does some gnarly things with animals/fish that are far too recognizable in their pre-cooked state, nice breezy on-screen persona, though, and she's usually cooking with an aesthetically pleasing body of water or green field in the background)

Caprial and John (nice people, seem happy together, good friendly show with an emphasis on Pacific Northwest ingredients and spirit. Sometimes wonder whether they rip each others eyes out when the cameras stop rolling)


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