This Is Why You’re Festive

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This Is Why You’re Festive

Sam Hill

1st December 2011

Today we launched This Is Why You’re Festive, a combined advent calendar and high-street sandwich review blog. Updates’ll be posted daily on @PAN_studio. The project leads on from some exploration we’ve been doing into experience and food. The premise is as follows:

“…For the grown adult sans offspring, the wonder and nostalgia of a childhood Christmas really only lives on through the tastes, sights and smells of a decent Christmas Dinner – a magical combination of sausages wrapped in bacon, cheese wrapped in bacon, roasties, sprouts and turkey.

Many supermarkets, coffee franchises and fast food establishments have cottoned on to this gustatory link to the past and have attempted to commodify it, portioning out festive joy in the form of pre-packaged, mayonnaise saturated turkey sandwiches.

Which begs the question: which off-the-shelf festive foodstuff best conjures up an authentic and sincere *Christmassy* feeling?”

What constitutes a “Christmassy feeling”?

Feeling “festive” (in the platonic sense) is obviously going to be subjective and varied. So to be a bit more specific – how do you describe that typical cocktail of emotions felt as a young (santa fearing) kid, in the west, in the run up to Christmas?

There are two parts – the anticipation, which starts around about the first of December (or after Guy Fawkes/ Thanksgiving) and builds until the frenzied insomnia of Christmas eve, and the climactic release on Christmas morning, with the opening of presents, chocolate, visiting of family, dinner and other rituals.

Arguably, the cocktail is greater than the sum of it’s parts: the “Christmas feeling” is a hybrid of excitement, anticipation, wonder, receipt of attention and family love and a faith in magic. It’s enforced by natural cues (darker nights, frost, fog, occasionally snow) and cultural ones (advertisements, decorations, school holidays, religious activity etc.). It’s difficult to imagine a parallel state of mind, it might as well be a discreet emotion in it’s own right.

Designing the Feeling of Christmas

It’s no wonder then that we make efforts to recreate this state as adults, even through the paltry gestures of packaged sandwiches. Unfortunately conditions change – the faith in magic is lost; expectations are lowered and tempered by the politics and etiquette of gift-giving; prolonged family interactions can cause stress; we worry about what we eat; social expectations must be met – there is an obligation to perform in certain ways.

It’s curious then, to imagine how an emotional state as powerful as a “Christmas feeling” could be authentically induced in adults. Not a rehash of jaded childhood values, but something adapted to subvert the socially matured and pragmatic mindset. Schmaltzy festive cinema does this to a small extent, but as a medium it’s hardly engaging enough to illicit a lasting effect.

Pipe Dream Restaurant

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Pipe Dream Restaurant

Sam Hill

24th July 2011

“A pipe dream is a fantastic hope or plan that is generally regarded as being nearly impossible to achieve. At Pipe Dream we don’t believe in the impossible!”

Pipe Dream Restaurant, which is based in Southgate, takes a novel new approach to selling experiences. It serves two distinct but reciprocating clientèle:

  1. restaurant goers willing to take a risk on their dining experience;
  2. people who dream of running, or cooking in, a professional restaurant.

The concept is brilliantly meta – a case of business-as-entertainment come full circle. It appears heavily inspired by programmes such as The Apprentice and Four in a Bed, but mostly the glut of competition cookery shows such as Masterchef and The Restaurant which have become a staple of British television. Pipe Dream gives participants the opportunity to live-out the “if you can’t stand the heat” drama that they’ll recognise from Ramsay-esque bootcamp quest-u-mentaries. Perhaps for an additional cost the facilitators provide realtime sarcastic narration in a Come Dine With Me style.

It’s not clear from the website how the model is financed. Do the have-a-go chefs pay for their experience (something Gilmore and Pine would condone), or share a cut of the evenings profits? Do the restaurant’s guests have their bill subsidised to compensate for the jeopardy? Or is there a no-quibble returns policy on the food?

It’s seems like a very British, foodie take on ARK Music Factory. ARK are best known for being the vanity label that produced Rebecca Black’s notorious pop song Friday. From our perspective the criticism they received always seemed a little unfair. It’s arguable that rather than working as an “independent label” as they maintain, ARK are actually providing a bespoke premium experiential service, an immersive fantasy, for which the market is in fact the ‘talent’, not the prospective audience (Rebecca’s mother paid $4000 for the release).

Pipe Dream might be seen then, in other words, as a “vanity restaurant”. This isn’t at all a bad thing. They should be congratulated for being an adventurous enterprise and we wish them all the best. If delivering a compelling service means occasionally learning lessons from the entertainment industry, then why not?

Perhaps we could see Ice Road Trucker For The Day or Pipe Dream Alaskan Fishing within the year.