|By JULIETTE ROSSANT |
Which sells better, sex CDs or holiday cookbooks?
Before you decide, you need to hear two stories.
Once upon a time, an interfaith (Christian-Jewish) married couple by the names of Michelle and Ron Gompertz moved from New York to Livingston, Montana. There, inspired by an episode on The O.C. involving "Chrismukkah," they decided to find a way to celebrate the holidays of both faiths together. That is to say, they decided to capitalize on the concept.
Thus (and avoiding a lawsuit in the true Chrismukkah spirit -- see articles in The Boston Globe and New York Daily News) was Chrismukkah.com born. The first product line was Chrismukkah cards, but starting last year they added a second product line of cookbooks. They avoid religious conflict by celebrating the secular aspects of both holidays, Christmas and Hanukkah, asking such profound questions as "Is Frosty the Snowman Jewish, Christian? Is he Muslim? What is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?" (see Fox News story).
Think of the implications of Chrismukkah. No more "Happy Holidays" cards that try to capture a slew of winter solstice celebrations -- Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa and early wishes for Nevrouz and Chinese New Year -- all in one, limp phrase.
And then there is a handy-dandy guide and cookbook. Chrismukkah: The Merry Mish-Mash Holiday (Chrismukkah.com 2005), which comes with fun recipes by Kathy Stark, former executive chef of the HoneyBaked Ham Co. The show is all in the side dishes, however. Illustrating the cookbook are wonderful, corny photos by Larry Stanley, both of the dishes and of kitsch -- like a Roy Rogers doll which accompanies the recipe for Kosher Cowboys BBQ Brisket of Beef (pp. 39-40). There is a vegetarian-friendly pizza topped with matzoh balls called Mama Mia Matzah Pizza! (pp. 47-8). Don't by shy and do try the Godzilla Jew-shi Rolls (pp.51-2) stuffed with smoked salmon and asparagus, complete with photo depicting (what else?) a Godzilla menorah with the candles climbing up the monster's back.
Some of the recipes are borrowed from existing popular dishes, like Black and White Diversity Cookies (p. 65-6) or Big Macher Macaroons (p. 73-4), while others are kooky creations like Brittle Butter Brickle Matzoh Myrrh (p. 75-6) with a head note that reads, "Symbolizing the fragility of the Middle East, this Chrismukkah treat combnes two equally brittle elements – matzoh and butter brickle."
But, wait: there's more, including a list of celebrities (mostly actors) nominated to celebrate Chismukkah (p. 62). And some Chrismukkah verbal coinage such as "jewbilation." And some silly holiday song classics like The Chismukkah Song (p. 19), It's the Most Meshugganah Time of the Year (p. 35) and The Night before Chrismukkah (pp. 59-60).
"Oh what fun......!"
Roll back the clock more than ten years.
It is 1994, and Wired Magazine (then the hottest tech magazine in the world) is examining "The Future of CDs." Among the five experts featured in the article is one Ron Gompertz, listed as "president, Heyday Records, co-creator of Cyborgasm and The Edge of the Bed: Cyborgasm 2."
"Creator of what?," you ask. But you read aright: Cyborgasm and Cyborgasm 2. According to Lisa Palac:
That same year  I met Ron Gompertz, a local entrepreneur and record producer who was dabbling in a new 3D sound technology he called Virtual Audio. Soon, we became partners and started laying down tracks for Cyborgasm, an erotic anthology of stories and music in Virtual Audio. Cyborgasm 2 soon followed.She describes the CDs as follows:
Cyborgasm is an erotic anthology of stories, sexual scenes and music recorded in Virtual Audio or 3D sound. On it you'll hear women and men telling erotic stories, sharing their sexual fantasies, having real sex and real orgasms. Cyborgasm was recorded live on location, meaning that we went into people's bedrooms--or wherever they wanted to perform--and let the digital tape roll. To get the total 3D you-are-there Cyborgasm experience, just put on a pair of headphones, close your eyes and listen.
What is the road that leads from Cyborgasm to Chrismukkah? And how does Michelle wind up marrying Ron Gompertz, executive producer of Cyborgasm, the erotic CD, and then promote a squeeky-clean (if irreverent) holiday concept?
Michelle Gompertz told Superchefblog that Cyborgasm predates their marriage. She said, talk to Ron.
Ron explained that Cyborgams arose from a previous relationship -- with Lisa Palc. (Enough said about that.) He sold the record company that produced the Cyborgasm CDs, moved to Montana, and opened an arts supply company. After marrying Michelle, they had a daughter, whose presence made them consider their mixed religious heritages. They saw the Chrismukkah episode on The O.C. and rolled out the holiday cards. Then, with the idea of a cookbook, Ron reached out to Kathy Stark, now owner of Starky's Authentic, which Ron claims is Montana's only Jewish delicatessin (who's arguing?). The result is the Chrismukkah cookbook.
One thing for sure is that the theme in the Gompertz home in these latter, recent days is good humor. For the tolerant and open-minded, Chrismukkah: The Merry Mish-Mash Holiday is nothing but fun. This is definitely light-hearted relief from the gorgeous yet heavy cooking tomes of Thomas Keller & Co. at the top of the heap of never-ending cookbook publications.
So what if Ron Gompertz sold erotic CDs in his past? Does the Monica Lewinsky Affair erase Bill Clinton's subsequent deeds -- like the Tsunami Fund and the Katrina Fund? (See previous article.) And for all you Chrismukkah celebrators (and wannabes), does the word "reformed" ring a bell here?
Besides, maybe Chrismukkah will be more successful than the Cyborgasm CDs. After all, how many of you had ever heard of "Cyborgasm" until now? But had you heard of "Chrismukkah" before you read this article? Probably a one in ten chance on that, thanks to The O.C. "launch" in 2003 and newspaper coverage in 2004 -- as far afield as The Wall Street Journal.
The real challenge starts this year, though: will Chrismukkah 2005 mark a long-term trend of celebration?
Pay the $15 smackers and let Superchefblog know via email: is this a fun, enduring cookbook or what?
Chrismukkah: In the News
ABC WPVI Channel 6 (Philadelphia)
ABC WBAY Channel 2 (Greenbay)
Wall Street Journal
Los Angeles Times
Arizona Daily Star
HGTV Dream Builders
New York Daily News
[complete Cookbook Reviews]
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