Sunday, October 15, 2006

I Heart Rachel Ray

The very first time I saw Rachel Ray on tv I thought to myself "wow, major Heart Fire", which is a polite way of saying that the person exhibits a certain set of irritating symptoms which include but are not limited to: talking rapidly, quick movements, inappropriate or constant giggling or laughter, ill-considered speech, an inability to tolerate heat. On the bright side a Heart type person is warm, friendly and can be empathetic and there when you need them.

The Heart is considered to be the Emperor of the body, it rules how we see and interact with the world. The old saying that the eyes are the window to the soul is true in Chinese Medicine. Whereas the Liver is the General (control freak) of the body, the Heart is the ceremonial ruler, very rarely involved in the day to day activities but everything revolves and depends on the Heart. As Ted Kaptchuk loves to point out, the duty of the Emperor is to be in the right place at the right time. It's a long and fascinating lecture, but that is the gist of it.
Therein lies the secret of her success. Perhaps she's a star because that breakneck energy and interjection-riddled vocabulary are genuinely appealing, although if that's the case I may have to move to another, far more dour corner of the globe. I prefer to believe she's made it despite the relentless ebullience, that she connects because she understands that for a whole lot of people, getting dinner on the table is a major accomplishment. You work late, you take care of your kids, you have no time to shop. You contemplate choking down a solitary Luna Bar or picking up a supersize bucket of trans fats at the drive-through. Rachael Ray says there's another option, and with her chipper, can-do attitude, she demystifies cooking. If she weren't sugarcoated to the gills, her message would be almost too tough to take. Suck it up, she's saying. If I can do it, you can to it. Take one lousy half-hour and get a hot meal together, for yourself and for your family. A real meal, preferably the kind with some lean meat and fresh vegetables. No expensive equipment or specialty store ingredients; no fancy French terms or techniques. No excuses.
She used to get on my nerves too, but I got past it because most of her ideas work for me, they make my life easier and just because I can cook a gourmet meal with less than two hours notice doesn't mean I want to do it all the time.
But consider this: 66 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, while fast food and takeout consumption and portion sizes have ballooned. It's estimated that less than half of American families sit down to eat together every night. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how these things are related. So if the woman that Anthony Bourdain is not unjustified in referring to as a bobble-head can make dinner a little less intimidating, I can admit she may not be the antichrist. If she understands the vicissitudes of the dinner hour well enough to divide a recent tome into "Meals for the Exhausted," "Meals for the Not Too Tired" and "Bring It On! (But Be Gentle)," she can girlishly giggle herself all the way to the bank. And if, most important of all, a fair share of her recipes actually pass the taste test, she's welcome on my shelf any day.
Her tips about getting everything ready when you bring it home saves time in the middle of the week and that really is the heart of the matter. Anything or anyone that can get America to change its diet and allow families to spend time together is ok in my book. Suck it up four nights a week and you will even save money. Even with her frenetic schedule, I hear she cooks at home. There is something about us cooks, we prefer our own cooking.


  1. Anthony Bourdain is an agotistical jackass. Sorry. But I think Ray tries hard to work with what she has and is very entertaining.

    A lot of chefs like Bourdain look down at her as well as emirl because they have success.

    I love to watch her because she seems real and is her self.

  2. I was listening to Bourdain on the Commonwealth Club and they asked him about her. He has softened somewhat because he says that she has gotten ordinary people interested in cooking again and that is a good thing.

    He also talked about the value of promoting your faithful dishwasher instead of hiring someone from a cooking school. His respect for immigrants was pretty strong.

  3. Agotistical? Yes he may be something close to that... He is very opinionated, but people in a field like he is that are as passionate and as knowledgable about their trade usually are. Also I seriously doubt that he is jealous since he has accomplished more than a few things himself and has his own hit show (though not so much a cooking show) among many other things (books, his culinary resume, etc.)