On January 2, I accidentally caught the tail end of a show on the Cooking Channel called “Veg Edge,” which was being hosted by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. The show was unlike anything that I’d ever seen on either the Cooking Channel or Food Network, as it was focused on vegan chefs and restaurants. As far as I can tell – and after numerous emails to both networks suggesting that they consider it – there had never been a weekly vegetarian, much less vegan, cooking show on either network, so it was a pleasant surprise to see this one; not only was it focused on vegan food, restaurants, and lifestyles, but also because the people and places featured were the tough face of veganism, the hardcore, heavy metal, badass variety of vegan. The show offered a kind of response to the view of vegans as tree hugging, weak, and feminized. Of course, these two views constitute a kind of binary that seems present in the popular cultural discourse surrounding veganism – vegans as members of an anarchistic, post-punk subculture that is subversive, or vegans as ascetics, dietary minimalists, pale and ineffectual in their misplaced zeal.
Interestingly, this binary is also very gendered: the “Veg Edge” show featured both men and women, but the show did much in terms of generating a view of veganism that is highly masculinized, a version of veganism that presents a counter-discourse to the view of human herbivores as feminine or emasculated, particularly in U.S. culture where meat is presented and sold as masculine.
But anyway. I bring this up because of Jason.
I’ll go ahead and say that I’m completely biased about Jason, because I’m sort of married to him (and here's an interview with him), but the “Veg Edge” special made me angry (for about the 700th time), that Jason doesn’t have his own show on the Food Network or Food Channel. So I wrote to Isa Chandra Moskowitz, thanking her for hosting the “Veg Edge” show and telling her about Jason, “the salad-eating vegan who can put you through a wall,” as a possible guest for the series. And she wrote me back…to let me know that the show was a one time special.
I feel pretty certain that at some point, there will be a mainstream vegetarian show on one or the other of these networks, but it hasn’t happened yet. The closest that they’ve come is the “Veg Edge” special and an episode of Food Network’s “Top Chef Masters” during which five famous carnivorous chefs made a vegan, gluten free, soy-free lunch for Zooey Deschanel – an event that sent good ole boy Art Smith into such a frenzy that he served a desert of Rice Dream and strawberry jam…which got him axed from the show. The Top Chef episode revealed just how difficult it is to make delicious food, if you don’t know how to do anything other than meat, butter, and cheese. It showed that vegan cooking requires a level of creativity – or perhaps just a different kind of creativity – that is not accessible to more classically trained chefs.
Here’s an episode of Yvonne Smith’s* “The Traveling Vegetarian” that features The Laughing Seed and Jason.
Now get off your butt and write to the Food Network and demand a vegan cooking show!
* Yvonne Smith has 3876 friends at present, which I find amazing. At last count, I have 326, which seems impressive, until you are friended by someone with 3876 friends.