Annabel Crabb’s Kitchen Cabinet is a voyeur’s delight which starts with a saucy two course proposition. I’ll show you my dessert if you show me your ‘mains’. The intimate exchange of menus, the home swum yabbie and the odd bottle of Chateau Plonker is the entrée to a behind the scenes expose of rich white men (mostly) of our political class who have built careers on manufacturing and maintaining their public images; men who have had their off duty switches surgically removed at birth. Camera or no camera they are constantly, forever starring in their own shows, while we are kept in our places.
Most MPs are born performance artists and many overachieve assiduously in creating and presenting selves spun entirely from their own bullshit. Some like Pyne are all gong and no dinner; all mouth and no trousers. But modern politics became just another branch of show business long ago.
Still Crabb’s little show sticks to its shtick; its promise that something, if not anything profound or noteworthy, will be revealed in the mix as MPs do a twirl with a wooden spoon or whisk a bit of froth about. Cue earnest, direct questions from Annabel. She catches a new Nova as the hard mother slaps down her daughter’s malingering as she paddles the damper.
Of course some MPs are just not up to it. Albo and Pyne faff around like men who have just discovered the existence of the apron until someone competent takes the work off them.
Crabb says the show aims to humanise politicians. Now that would be an achievement. Instead it is more PR for pollies, an attention seeking species for whom too much exposure is never enough. Especially when there’s image rehabilitation to do. Morrison the monster of Manus Island, the most loathed minister ever is quick to seize the day even if the best he can manage is to faff about with lies about needing to act tough to deter people smugglers. Crabb should play him a clip of his bullying of Gillian Triggs.
While it takes the lid off to reveal what’s cooking in the pollie’s pot, Kitchen Cabinet embraces gender stereotypes and supports the patriarchy of the rich white narcissist, born to reign over us, while the rest of us in the under classes drool and dream on, our voices unheard, our needs ignored, our noses pressed to the sweetshop kitchen window.
Penny Wong’s appearance, it is true, broke the unadulterated run of blokes while former Hockeyroo Nova Peris added a piquant dash of her own dream time nightmare as she related acts of her own and her mother’s tough motherly love with a good Magpie Goose plucking thrown in to level any of her ABC hostess’s vegetarian pretensions.
Crabb expresses amazement at hearing that Peris experiences more racism at home than anywhere abroad. Cue the quick cut to the bush baklava with rosella jam. The script is under strict instruction to keep it fluffy.
A privileged sneaky peek into the knives of the rich and famous for the nosy parker and the name-dropping social climber in all of us, the show, nevertheless crosses all sorts of boundaries. And it’s such an easy meal, all pre-packaged, no-fuss, instant mutual appreciation. Just sprinkle with wittering superficial pleasantries and banalities.
‘Soo interesting, Scott’, whether it is chopping, stirring or chewing and talking at the same time, Annabel models that faux politeness where one simply must not give offence. Or expect one’s guests to feel anything but comfortable. Some of us would like the former Border Patrol heavy to report to The Hague to answer for his abuse of human rights. Crabb is happy to keep it down to a story of no soap, no towel in the hotel room on the Island of Serendip.
So you were in Sri Lanka and they gave you less than full room service? So convenient. No mention is made of the turned around asylum seekers washing up, delivered back to their persecutors in bright orange fibreglass Australian return to sender capsules on Sri Lankan shores. Don’t bring a thing. No mess. No-one even has to do any washing up.
Of course it’s far more. For starters, it’s an enchanted beanfeast. Effortlessly, instantly, we cross an impossible threshold; trespassing freely, swapping any guilt or sense of intrusion for the vicarious pleasures of watching. A magic window swallows us up, devours us whole with an illusion of intimacy and belonging in a world just like our own but with a better class of condiment and brand of cutlery.
KC enables us to imagine, fondly, for twenty-nine minutes that we have every right to be where we don’t belong. We make believe we have a standing invitation, always welcome to join Annabel’s kitchen table of powerful friends. Except that we are not and never will be welcome. Kitchen cabinet peddles the preposterous and transparent lie that we are welcome at our masters’ table.
In reality, Kitchen Cabinet re-enacts our exclusion from power and privilege. For all our vicarious enjoyment of the faux intimacy, we are being given the bum’s rush. The Brits have perfected this in their marketing of their royal family as somehow essential to the social picnic despite the royal ‘firm’s’ vast wealth, its parasitic entitlement and its history of predation and dispossession.
We are conned into believing we have every right to be in Annabel’s kitchen. After all, the camera persuades us, Annabel is on intimate terms with all the high and mighty. Of course they act human. They let her rub in the lard a bit about their poor scone skills or their kitchen gaucherie and fess up about some part of their own innate human silliness.
Does one tie an apron at the back or around one’s embonpoint? Albo wonders, a boofhead when it comes to apron strings but engaging us all with his disarming lack of kitchen smarts; his crafty lack of guile.
We are permitted to indulge our fantasies about being powerful or interesting or famous or even on a level peg with the famous pollie for thirty minutes. The illusionist sets out with a clean napkin over her granny basket and leads us up the garden path in another episode of the same fantastical fairy tale, the greet and eat.
KC co-opts its viewers into the rarefied world of the political class pretending to be normal; posing as perfectly ordinary people. It is not too far down the kitchen passage way to imagine they are one of us. And vice versa. We recall the mansion we inherited along with Mal as he shows us what his father left him. Of course he does it in that well-bred off-hand way favoured by the filthy rich indicates.
A mistress-piece of illusion, Ms Crabbette’s feast purveys the outrageous lie that behind the bastard in front of the camera is a loveable and harmless one of us. It is as preposterous a lie as the proffered image of a cute and fluffy Morrison or a wise and witty Pyne.
Along with the twaddle of the fat-free low carb lo-cal dialogue KC serves up a recipe that does vastly more to sustain our political classes’ privileged places at the table than it does to appease the hunger of the rest of us for a fairer share of the national pie. This is not to have a go at Annabel who does what she does well. Just let’s not be confused about what it is she’s serving us along with her self-saucing pudding.