Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yan Can Cook; But Can Rachael?

Used to be all you had to worry about when you ate out was finding a hair in your food or, worst case, picking up some bacteriological disorder. But now you apparently have to bring a geiger counter to prevent ingestion of polonium-210, especially if you are sitting nearby anyone who has gotten cross-wise with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Makes me think that when I see those bumper stickers that say "Worst President Ever" cruising around Silicon Valley, those drivers are just not thinking globally enough.

Now it is obvious how Putin and George Bush can be divisive lightening rods, but how is it that cute, perky Rachael Ray stirs up similar "love-her, hate-her" passions amongst foodies and the general public?

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s with Public Television as the sole source of food programming, only Julia Child and the Galloping "Inebriated" Gourmet were more falmiliar culinary icons than Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook. Yan introduced PBS viewers to Chinese cuisine, by playing with his indgredients (many of them still writhing) and warmly mocking his ethnicity in a way that has become impossible in this country, since the passage of the "Nothing Is Funny Anymore" Act circa 1985. But at the end of the day, Yan could cook--and still can.

Today we have what? Nine hundred cooking shows across two hundred channels, some in high def. You can perceive the three dimensional crunchiness of a single grain of fleur de sel in all its briny glory. And with all these offerings, no food evangelist stirs up more controversey than Rachael Ray. From 30-Minute Meals to $40-Dollars a Day to $50K an episode (just guessing) of her new talk show format, this perky brunette charms middle America, while pestering nearly every food snob and chic metrosexual--and just about everybody else who just hates to see people be happy.

But can she cook? Well, I got to witness a taping of her talk show, The Rachael Ray Show, last month--a surreal experience. Huddled into an audience-prep room with three other guys and three hundred women SRO, we were plied with free bagels, danish and coffee. I felt like an uninvited guest at a planned parenthood clinic. The research says that women speak 20,000 words a day, compared to 7000 for the average man. Doing the math this put us at a 6 million to 21 thousand word disadvantage and frankly, I had trouble getting my 7000 words in edgewise. I was saved when our "audience attitued officer" arrived to get us mentally prepared (sans the alcohol Emeril provided on his show) to scream, clap, yell and otherwise act like the idiots you see on TV.

We were ushered onto the rotating stage, where we witnessed an hour or so of segment taping, focused on helpful hints for getting through the day, week, month in America a little happier and a little healthier. Best segment: how to stop your kid from getting sick. Sure wash their hands like four million times a day. But what I didn't know is you should change their clothes when they get home from pre-school or school because bugs are sticky and will continue to migrate from clothing and infect your rug rats long after contact with other children has passed. Who woulda thought?

Then Rachael made a pork loin in a pan. Any good? Well, I was in the back, but the ladies in the front who got a taste couldn't stop talking about it (or anything else for that matter). My conclusion, she probably can cook better than most of us, and in general helps improve the average home cooking quality across the country--which, by the way, is pitiful. But to make sure, we are having a dinner party for one of Max's friend's families this Friday and Max wants meatballs. The Food Network has a 5-star rated Rachael Ray meatball recipe online--and I am going to make it. Something tells me the boys and the parents will like it.

Finally, and this cannot be overstated, Rachael is hotter in person than on TV. They say the camera adds ten pounds. Well the other side of that coin is that "in person" sheds ten pounds (which makes me happy most people meet me in person). And those missing 10 turn Rachelle from cute, perky girl next door, to sleek smokin' girl next door. (For the record, I grew up next door to tall lanky George Sarantitus.)

So my advice is don't waste hate-cycles on pretty girls, with good (sometimes too good) attitudes, who appear to live clean-enough, help people and make an honest buck, when there are plenty of opponent-poisoning, aide-stealing, child-murdering politicians around trying hard to earn your disrespect. (Just don't let them know you don't like them--especially if you enjoy eating out).


Blogger Run B.M.C. said...

I enjoyed this post as I am a closet Rachael Ray fan. In fact, I once watched her cooking show at 4PM, left for the grocery store at 4:30 PM and had an authentic 30-minute meal on the table in about 90 minutes ;-)

10:50 AM  
Blogger Curtis said...

Other than her almost surreal perkiness, I think the main reason a lot of foodies don't like Rachael Ray (myself included) is because we watch her and think, I could do that in my sleep. Most of the stuff she makes is terribly simple. Plus her knife skills are abysmal and she's probably showing lots of people the wrong way to cut things. It's just more of the same for popular tv, it's more about the attitude and looks than anything. Julia Child couldn't get a show in this day and age.

4:07 PM  

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