It's so easy to bash Rachael Ray, so maybe that's why I found David Carr's column in yesterday's Times so interesting.
My two favorite lines from the story: "But Ms. Ray's folksy approach belies the sophistication of her message. She is part of the cut-to-the-chase genre of media, like Lucky, Domino and Real Simple magazines, and their success is built on this fact of modern life: if people are more secure economically, it is only because they are working longer and harder than ever before." And: "Ms. Ray's recipes may call for store-bought turkey loaf she is really trafficking in the ultimate modern luxury: time."
Carr's piece was really the first one I've seen that tries to place the Rachael Ray phenomenon in context without declaring that she's some kind of cultural cooking antichrist.
I don't know Rachael Ray (I met her once at a party, and she was pleasant and friendly in a hopped up, caffeinated way), and sure I wish her taste and take on food were more sophisticated, but the bottom line is that Rachel Ray empowers lots of people to prepare meals for themselves and their family without feeling overwhelmed or overmatched.
So maybe it's time to move on and let Rachael be Rachael. If she's not for you, that's okay. She clearly taps into something primal in her audience's psyche, and that is clearly good enough for Rachael and her millions of fans. And you've got to give her credit for not trying to be something she's not. There's not an ounce of pretension in her shredded cheese bag.
She's not the cultural food antichrist. There are plenty of famous, successful people in our culture who are far more deserving of our scorn and derision. Like, say, Paris Hilton.
The Times' Kim Severson wrote a nuanced profile of Rachael a few months ago.
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