Friday, October 07, 2011
COLUMN: Pampered Chef
After years of being banished away in a corner of the Arts and Living section, forced to write fluffy little humor columns, this hard-nosed journalist FINALLY has a scoop. For all of you who wanted some little drively happy-smiley-time piece about cats or my girlfriend, you're about to be sorely disappointed, for I am on the verge of some serious Class A investigative journalism here. Look out, Chris Hanson of Dateline NBC... watch your nose, Geraldo... there's a new guy in town, and I've got a story that just might benefit mankind for years to come. And I mean MANkind. You girls can stop reading - this one's for the fellas.
Gentlemen, I have done it. I have breached the dark and mysterious wall that separates us from the world of women. As I type this, I am at present deeply embedded along the front lines of danger. You may know this place as "my basement." As I sit sequestered in my subterranean den of safety, a secret gathering is occurring merely one flight of stairs above my head. I have reached the promised land. I have gone where no man has gone before.
I am... at a Pampered Chef party.
Well, technically I'm below one. But it's well within earshot, and it's happening in MY house. This is simply one of those events that guys aren't seen at. Heck, we don't even know what HAPPENS at one of them. While we guys are out doing guy things, girls of the world unite under someone's roof to buy and sell candles, baskets, makeup, "surprise" parties, and more. When my girlfriend asked if she could hold a Pampered Chef party at my house, I bristled at first. Then it was explained to me that I would actually be allowed inside at the same time as the party, and my curious journalistic nature perked up. And once I heard that mango salsa was on the demonstrator's menu, that pretty much sealed the deal.
This is a world not often witnessed by those of us holding X and Y chromosomes, but this much I can tell you: Pampered Chef is a company that makes high-end cooking utensils and kitchenware. Some of their products are truly awesome (a device that removes corn from the cob? Sign me up.) Others are just plain weird, but I'll get to that later. The point is, I've yet to see a product in the Pampered Chef line that would make a BAD addition to one's kitchen.
If only one could buy their wares in stores. But ya can't. There's only one way to buy Pampered Chef, and that's by going to a Pampered Chef party at somebody's house. Or, in other words, you have to be a woman. That's not to say that Pampered Chef specifically excludes the estrogen-challenged, but let's look at the evidence. For fifteen years, I have sat at my cubicle at the newspaper. In all those days, I can't tell you the number of Pampered Chef invites, e-vites, catalogs, and party talk that have whisked their way around me. Yet not once did one of those invites end up on MY desk. Noooooo, say the girls of the world. Why would we give an invitation to Shane? He's a smelly no-good boy, and we don't want smelly no-good boys at our parties... leaving me to sigh and head home, resigned to spend yet another evening trying to remove corn from the cob with a standard table knife.
The way I see it, the folks at Pampered Chef are missing out on a fairly sizable demographic of clients: dudes. Just because we man-folk like to hunt and fish and watch cars drive in endless circles every Sunday does NOT mean that we don't appreciate a fine piece of hand-crafted stoneware when we see it. It just might take a slightly different marketing plan to get us involved.
First off, let's call it what it is, and what it ISN'T is a party. I understand the definition of "party," for I am a learn-ed college graduate. Specifically, I learn-ed how to party at my fraternity house.
If there's one thing guys have down pat, it's your standard party elements: People. Music. (LOUD music, preferably being played by me.) Camaraderie with close (and, heck, occasionally distant) friends. Maybe some burgers on the grill. Throw some video games into the mix. You might even end up with a soothing bonfire (and, if MY frat house serves as an example, if the party was an exceptional rager, your bonfire might just end up involving one of more pieces of your living room furniture by night's end. If you wake up to a smoldering sofa, rest assured that you've just had one GOOD party.)
Girls, on the other hand, are clearly born lacking the party gene. When girls get together en masse (the scientific term is "a gaggle of girls,") they live it up with such reckless party hedonism as... brunch. Or tea. Or a book club. Or anything involving color-coordinated and seasonally-themed party decor... OR, in this case, inviting a near-stranger into your house to tell you about the wonders of a garlic press.
Wait. I just heard a squeal. I need to investigate. Be right back.
Okay, whew. I'm back. It appears that the squeal has erupted because the mangos have been properly, umm, mango-ed. Okay, so I don't know the process by which mangos go from being delightful pieces of fruit to delightful salsa, but I now know that Pampered Chef sells a product that does just that -- and only that. It is built and sold for the express purpose of processing mangos. Let's say you wanted to do the same thing to a kumquat? Sorry, no. This tool is ONLY suitable for mangos. And the girl gaggle just went "oooh" over it. I'm pretty sure I've consumed mango maybe twice in my entire life. I don't even know what a mango looks like, but I can now own and wield a tool capable of destroying one (which is good to have on-hand, just in case the Great Mango Revolution goes down.)
This isn't a party. It's a sales pitch disguised as a get-together. And as much as I actually do like their products, why would anyone want to go out of their way to get pressured into buying them?
It was about that time when Amy came down and got me -- and I in turn got my answer. At the end of the product pitch, we had a table full of mango salsa, chicken fajitas, brownies, and a behemoth fruit trifle. Everybody loves food, and the girl gaggle made quick time decimating the goodies -- but not before inviting me into their yummy world. By the time it was done, not only did I have a full stomach but a dent in my wallet -- that de-corn-erator thing will make a nice addition to my kitchen, methinks. Somewhere along the way, I may have turned on Rock Band and caused an impromptu Bee Gees sing-along. It almost felt like... a party.