Sarah Gilbert is a freelance financial writer; she keeps chickens; and she’s a beginning urban farmer. She lives with her three small boys and husband in Portland, Oregon, and keeps her own blog, Cafe Mama.

Giving up Rachael Ray

For good?

July 28, 2008

It wasn’t the fault of Rachael Ray’s paisley scarf. I had given her up before the brouhaha even began. In fact, it had nothing to do with any scandals or raves involving the Food Network’s roster (I enjoy Ray and adore Ina Garten, and have a typical foodie crush on Alton Brown, though I confess Sandra Lee makes me want to scream). It was my son Everett, for whom the presence of a television as the focal point of our living room was causing enormous issues.

One day, he and I had a huge blowup that ended with me calling Comcast and cutting our television services off entirely. As I waited on hold, I bit my lip and thought, “Iron Chef”? “30-Minute Meals”? “Barefoot Contessa”? What will I do without you? It wasn’t meant as a punishment, but for my husband and me, it felt very much like one.

Two nights later (I’ll allow that the first night was a disaster, as Everett was holding a widescreen grudge), I sat down on my couch with a couple of cookbooks, enjoying the quiet lists of ingredients as the baby nursed to sleep. I was thinking about crème fraîche, so I got out the cookbook that taught me the beauty of the French sour cream. I’d bought the book in college, when I was a sophomore and waiting for my scholarship monies to hit my account; my living expenses could only be collected as cash from the business office several weeks after the term began. In the meantime, I could only spend money on credit at the bookstore, and one day happened upon Sweet Basil, Garlic, Tomatoes, and Chives, by Diana Shaw.

I wasn’t a vegetarian even in college (vegetarianism goes together with college students like steak au poivre goes with pommes Anna). But due to the aforementioned financial pressures, meat was a luxury, and I read and re-read every word Shaw wrote. Her stories about Provence and Tuscany marked my awakening as a foodie. Under “crème fraîche,” Shaw had written, “It’s my belief the French have attained culinary distinction largely by adding crème fraîche to dishes that would be unremarkable without it.”

Now in my living room, some 15 years later, every page was the memory of a meal, a discovery, a passion. Creme Pesto — a sauce of four ingredients, one of which is crème fraîche — was so delicious, even on 79-cents-a-pound supermarket pasta, I made it every night until I’d used up all the Parmesan I could afford. I had cooked a frittata with potatoes and rosemary in my one very good pan.

A simple frittata is food for the ages.

Revisiting Shaw’s anecdotes about her time as a young food writer traveling alone in France and Italy, again, connected me to the beauty and simplicity of authentic food.

Will I want to make Rachael Ray’s sassy take on a croque-monsieur in 15 years? How timeless is her way with EVOO and a can of roasted red peppers? Why does she persist in bringing expensive, but ultimately bland, cuts of meat in their plastic-wrapped shells out of her fridge, modeling such a flawed model of eating?

Despite Ray’s approachability and my general agreement with the concept that People Should Cook, she really represents much of what is wrong with American home cuisine. It’s simplified, but not in the right ways; it’s broken down into neat bits, so you can cook meals in 30 minutes without learning anything artful, and without really knowing anything about the ingredients.

In Ray’s kitchen, the conversation isn’t about what your chicken ate or how your tomatoes were grown or whether lettuce is actually in season. It’s about how well can you approximate authentic food, how much can you balance, how quickly can you get it on the table, how cute can you be.

Shaw’s food is not cute. Her food is life-altering, foundation-shaking, but quiet, almost lonely in its real-ness. She writes of how pronouncing “cece” (Italian for “chickpea”) could mean life or death in 13th-century Sicily (the French supporters of Charles I couldn’t get the hang of the “ch” sound). She writes of mushrooms as a symbol for the fate of a new marriage.

She writes, mostly, about taking pride in ingredients, in the things you make with your hands. She does not write about shortcuts. She writes about love, and food, and how those are just two ways of saying the same thing. “I love you,” and “Here is my baked spinach with eggs and béchamel, my asparagus frittata, my ricotta cheesecake, here, for you” — these are identical phrases.

As I am reading about the couple on their honeymoon, the girl who would not eat her mushrooms, I cry, again. I have a baby sleeping on my lap and it is late, too late to find fresh local mushrooms and parsley to pair with the season’s first garlic, my own cultured butter for Les Champignons a l’Ail; it is too early in the season to buy four pounds of ripe tomatoes for Sauce Tomate Crue; I do not have basil for that Creme Pesto.

But I have cream and I have buttermilk culture, and I lie the baby down in the bed and I pour a cup of cream into a bowl, a tablespoon of culture, I stir and cover it with a scrap of cotton cloth and I know that this meal will take far, far longer than 30 minutes. I must start now, tonight, I must travel back to the 13th century in my dreams, I must dive into this world in which the ages are fused into simple truths, in which sauces are mixed in a mortar and pestle, in which every ingredient has a story that cannot be told in a television set.

No, these stories must unfold slowly, over hours and days and generations, we must entwine our own history with someone who is not a brand, who could be nameless and faceless, the woman who said with conviction that her lentil soup was the best in town.

My crème fraîche is ready the next day, and I make a simple frittata of potatoes and greens and chèvre, in that same pan I used 15 years ago, stirring in a bit of of the rich sour cream. I eat it slowly, offering a bit on a fork to Monroe. He takes it between his thumb and finger, considers it, then pokes it between his lips. Yum-O.

There are 38 comments on this item
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1. by Kim O'Donnel on Jul 28, 2008 at 2:43 PM PDT

Bravo! You have so eloquently captured the gist of the RR syndrome -- thank goodness someone finally had the chops to do it -- and with grace.

2. by anonymous on Jul 29, 2008 at 4:29 AM PDT

I agree with your sentiment on Ray and why do we want to take tradition out of dinnertime. We rush through life; why do we have to rush through dinner? I do not enjoy watching her anymore because of what she says and the phrases she’s trying to coin. It’s not some effortless attempt either to just throw a word out there as she would probably say it is. For instance ... When she says EVOO she says it so it will catch on (It did) and never did she say it as a shortcut. Most of the time she says “EVOO ... Extra Virgin Olive Oil” and it just makes me want to scream. Why use the initials if you are going to say what it is anyway!?! Did Emeril ever stop after saying BAM! to explain that he was saying BAM! as a form of excitement about pepping up his food? Of course not; he said it and just moved on. Also we get ridiculous things like Spoonula, Stoup, Delish, Yummers, Put it in the GB (Garbage Bowl), or just her simply saying MMMMMMMMMM after tasting everything. We also have to watch her carry the stuff from the counter without dropping it. I guess she thinks this will impress us. Why not just turn around and set the stuff on the counter by the stove. The kitchen can be unsafe enough already; we do not need to be showing our kids the wrong way to carry stuff in the kitchen. What if they tried to copy her and they were also carrying a knife? It could happen.

BTW: In closing, please don’t deprive your child of the interaction of TV. I’m not talking about letting them spend hours in front of it. I speak from experience; if they are deprived of that interaction then it’ll be like being deprived of sugar at home. The second they get old enough they will go to a friends and just binge on it. Getting rid of cable does not solve a problem and while I applaud you as a parent; life is hard enough for children as it is. If they do not have some level of familiarity with what their peers know about (nice) TV shows ... It’s going to set them apart in a bad way. I’m not talking about conformity either. I’m talking about them having their own sense of belonging. Please reconsider and just use the parental controls to limit what they watch. That’s just my 2 cents as a parent.

3. by Carrie Floyd on Jul 29, 2008 at 9:53 AM PDT

Anonymous, please, “the interaction of tv”? Not having a tv will set your children apart “in a bad way” and jeopardize “their own sense of belonging”?

My parents got rid of our television when we were kids and it was all good — we read, listened to music, played with the animals and each other, and spent a lot of time outdoors. Sure we watched tv at our friends house, even binged, but believe me I didn’t feel like an outsider (then or now) when friends talked about Star Trek or Green Acres — I saw enough to get the references. And what would I have learned, really, from a steady diet of Bewitched? As an adult I’ve never seen Sex & The City, but I still have friends and don’t suffer from feeling like an outsider.

Good for you, Sarah, for making such a bold move. Your writing made me hungry to put my hands on a copy of Diana Shaw’s book and to try my hand at making creme fraiche.

4. by anonymous on Jul 29, 2008 at 10:43 AM PDT

I agree 100% Carrie ... but only for when you and I grew up. Things are so different now and it truly makes it an issue of Apples to Oranges. I won’t make anymore parenting comments; I’m just giving my opinion based on what I’ve seen (as of lately) in regards to this and the ostracizing I’ve witnessed firsthand. You know there is one part of this equation I left out. It’s the part where the kid could quite possibly feel some anger towards their parent. We talk about things like giving our children choices and on the flipside we talk about taking away the right to make a choice ... Who is right? ... Well I think it is safe to say we’ll both agree to disagree. That maybe in some way we are both right.

I still say that we were all given the most important parental ability there is … The ability to apply limitations. Extremism won’t solve a problem; it might make one worse. Suppose you needed the cable to get news about an impending natural disaster? Suppose there was a truly triumphant or heartbreakingly important moment caught on video. Suppose it was something momentous that changes life whether it is happy or sad. Without a connection such as the TV you’d have to rely on much dangerous forms of communication ... Computer for example. I embrace computing; but I approach it the same way I approach TV for my children; by exercising my judgment in a way that allows me to decide what is appropriate. Teaching them at the same time what is inappropriate. Will they ever truly get it before they in turn have children of their own? I can only hope.

Now back on subject ... I too will try to obtain a copy of that book. Thank you for opening another dialogue you never intended to open. It’s nice to communicate with others and even disagree; and to be able to do it in such a mature fashion. Thanks Sarah ... And please do not take my advice in the wrong way. I’m just sharing my own experience and hope you do not see it as me questioning how good of a parent you are. These are your children; and you should always make the choices that your heart tells you to make. If it is always done with their best interest at heart then I have absolutely no doubt that any and everything will work out perfectly.

5. by cafemama on Jul 29, 2008 at 11:29 AM PDT

anonymous, I’ve written for two parenting blogs, believe me, I’ve had far more than my share of advice and learned to always take it the right way -- in other words, glean from it anything that works for me and let the rest lie. this is what works for our household right now. food is only part of my struggle for a life that’s more “sustainable” or whatever buzzword you want to use; NPR will clue us into national disasters and after all I work for AOL, I get multiple daily emails that inform me of all the most salacious news :) I’ll never miss a thing! but sometimes I think we rely too much on TV for our cultural context these days. I’d far rather my children have a rich understanding of the language of C.S. Lewis’ England, the poetry of Wordsworth, how chickens and eggs really work, the existence of wild yeast in the air that we can catch and turn into bread, the wonder of how cream becomes butter, how salt is extracted from the sea, how sunflowers grow -- than how the theme to ‘Speed Racer’ goes (one I hear every day). sometimes -- or often in my life -- a shearing is required, a return to nakedness, so that we can recapture what’s real, so we are forced to soak up the ancient sun and look up into the sky and discover there is a cherry tree, right there, in our yard and we do not need a corporation to tell us how to get a snack, all we need is to reach up and grasp it and put it in our mouths.

6. by mdrose on Jul 29, 2008 at 3:48 PM PDT

I loved reading this post and the comments. I need to check out that book. I’m not a parent, but here’s a middle ground suggestion: some of us get by just fine with antenna TV rather than cable. Fewer choices limits the time spent as well as much of smut and violence (and it’s free!). The digital converter box brings cable quality reception and even the “Create” channel here in Oregon, with tons of cooking shows (alas, no Rachel). Good luck to all the parents who are faced with these kinds of choices. And, cafemama, I loved your words about the “shearing.”

7. by donaleen on Jul 29, 2008 at 8:31 PM PDT

we no longer have a tv....I can’t stand to watch it anymore. We get our news and lots of entertainment from the internet. Who needs tv?

8. by anonymous on Jul 30, 2008 at 12:24 PM PDT

i agree completely! i look forward to watching the cooking shows saturday’s on my local PBS stations rather than paying for cable to watch terrible programming on food network. i learn so much about food and cooking when reading through cookbooks/memoir and enjoy that immensely!

9. by simplyv on Jul 30, 2008 at 12:29 PM PDT

I’ve never liked Rachel Ray, because to me it was never cooking but more of “look what I can mix together”. Which creativity in cooking is great, but I wouldn’t really call RR a chef.

I used to actually watch a lot more cooking shows than I do now. Now I find that cooking shows are only useful if they’re making something from scratch that I have absolutely no idea what to do with, or what it is.. like taro root, or artichokes, or something.

Otherwise, A good cookbook is much much more useful, plus you don’t get inundated with commercials for useless or unhealthy mass produced salt laden fat laden crud. :)

We still have cable, and we still watch it (on the DVR - aka skipping commercials), but if it came down to a choice between healthy ingredients or affording cable.. the cable will loose. (besides most of the good shows are on the internet anyway). :)

10. by BrooklynQ on Jul 30, 2008 at 12:44 PM PDT

Wow. I’ve never read my love of cooking expressed so well. Thank you. The love of slow food, homemade food is why I love my barbecue so much.

11. by helenrennie on Jul 30, 2008 at 12:52 PM PDT

I swear, this is the first time food writing brought tears to my eyes.

Are there other real cooks out there who don’t watch Food TV (or any TV)? I’ve never seen Ina or Alton or Iron Chef or Top Chef. I’ve seen Rachel Ray without sound because she is always on when I go to the gym. Even without sound, she turns my stomach.

I run a small cooking school and my students are always surprised when I can’t tell they what I think about the last episode of Top Chef.

Everything I’ve seen my students pick up from Food TV is wrong stuff. It’s all the non-sense and trendiness that doesn’t matter. No matter how many episodes they watch, they still can’t sharpen a knife or slice an onion quickly or add enough salt to the dish to make it taste good.

If only we spent as much time cooking as watching TV -- what a food nation we would be.

Thank you for this fabulous post, Sarah!

12. by neha on Jul 30, 2008 at 1:34 PM PDT

Extremely well written Sarah!
It was such a refreshing read, and more so to read someone who thinks the way I feel... I am only too glad to know from the other comments that there are a good many of us!!
Now, as I contemplate what you have written, I realize that I didn’t really learn anything at all from the food network shows, except for Alton Brown (but again, I have a crush on him, so he shouldn’t count). But seriously, I would sit and watch food network for hours, and not feel in the least inspired to go in the kitchen and make what I just saw! On the contrary, public television shows like PBS or WLRN or Create (I have lived in many places) have made me really want to do it. Reading about you cookbook re-visitation, I remember that I used to love collecting recipes as a child, and could only imagine what it tasted like. Making them would then take on a whole new dimension, and all my efforts (both successful and others not so much) are I now realize what memories are truly made of. Many a conversation in my family these days begin with a “Remember the time when you made...” The happiness and satisfaction I got from them were immeasurable. I would perhaps not have as much food inclined as I am today if I left it to television. So now when I have children of my own, I can only hope to live and bond with them as I did with my family over the meals we shared.

13. by chefjimbo on Jul 30, 2008 at 1:43 PM PDT

As a cooking professional (Personal Chef) I have analyzed the RR effect and determined that for the most part she has made a positive one. She has gotten more people to think about, talk about and consider food cooked at home. She doesn’t only rely on prepacked, preprepped or processed foods. There are a lot of busy parents out there needing to get a meal on the table and she simply shows them how to do it without just popping frozen things into the microwave and/or bringing home bags of unhealthy fast food! No, if you have lots of time and/or enjoy cooking she’s not for you and personally her voice grates my nerves. That being said I have adapted many of her recipes for my clients to their enjoyment. And from a business point of view she certainly has taken advantage of her popularity and expanded it into a brand, understanding that her 15 minutes could be up at any moment!

14. by tmriga on Jul 30, 2008 at 2:12 PM PDT

Yes, RR is pretty much a waste of space and time for me, also.
With the exception of two shows, Guy Fieri’s Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives, and the Cake and Pastry Challenges, I stay away from FN altogether. Between the road trips and the merchandising, FN has gone the way of MTV - it’s everywhere but where it’s supposed to be - in the kitchen.

15. by vesperlight on Jul 30, 2008 at 2:13 PM PDT

Sarah: Hang in there through the TV withdrawal period. I turned off cable the day after my ex moved out. The sound of actual silence in the house was so sweet, after years on non-stop B-grade movies in the background...I never really regretted it, and my son (6 then) got enough TV at his dad’s to stay “in touch” with his generation, and plenty of Sponge Bob and Rug Rats and Disney on VHS. We watch “TV” now when it comes out on DVD - only a few series, when we want, no commercials. (Except Gray’s Anatomy, which we get on the internet as soon as it’s available). It’s been 10 years without cable a cable bill.

I love cookbooks that are rich in information on ingredients...Joy of Cooking, Green on Greens, Diane Kennedy’s wonderful books on Mexican food, Diet for a Small Planet and now I have CULINATE as my first resource for good food info. What do you do with lemon sorrel? Maybe it’s on Culinate.(Results on this one, by the way, were disappointing, since my budget doesn’t include spring salmon.)

Stick it out. Keep reading. Rent a DVD. Invite me over for frittata (and share the recipe).

16. by JeanE23 on Jul 30, 2008 at 2:39 PM PDT

We haven’t had cable TV for several years and haven’t missed it as much as we thought we would. With our high-speed Internet connection, we can usually catch clips from cable shows that interest us. Now we have an HD TV that we watch with an antenna. For cooking shows, as mentioned, there’s a lot of good stuff on PBS on Saturdays. We also get an extra PBS channel with the HD called “Create” that has several good cooking shows.

17. by kim on Jul 30, 2008 at 6:52 PM PDT

This essay was a joy to read. The first cookbook I bought when I moved out on my own was also a Diana Shaw cookbook, her Almost Vegetarian, a book I still refer to often and one that invites rereads often. It’s not a glossy cookbook, but it’s comforting and genuine. I’m going to track down the one you mentioned.
I haven’t had cable since 2000. I take cookbooks out from the library, and I work with them for twelve weeks while I decide whether I want to buy them (and I almost always do). I much prefer to follow recipes from a book than trying to copy something down from television, and I get great photography on the food blogs and sites I read online. I’m living without food television just fine.

18. by Marilyn Noble on Jul 30, 2008 at 8:23 PM PDT

Sarah, that was so beautiful. Your son will never remember most of the junk he watches on cable, but he will remember the times you spend together, cooking and eating wonderful food and enjoying the love you share as a family. I never had cable when my kids were growing up, and though sometimes they complained about it, mostly they never missed it.

My daughter and her new husband recently moved a thousand miles away, and last week I made my first visit to them. One of their first purchases was a swanky plasma tv, and of course they have hundreds of cable channels. We were sitting around on Sunday afternoon watching some inane Food TV show when I decided to cook. We turned off the tv, moved into the kitchen and put together a wonderful meal from the fresh meat and produce we bought that morning at the local farmer’s market. It was a beautiful moment in both of our lives, coming together as women have for centuries, sharing knowledge,stories, and food. You won’t ever have that experience passively watching RR, Alton, or Ina.

To this day I don’t have cable in my home -- I much prefer to curl up with a cookbook and learn about the heart and soul of good cooking, and then go do it on my own.

Thanks to all of you for sharing, and Sarah, thanks for the moving words.

19. by whimsy2 on Jul 30, 2008 at 9:09 PM PDT

What a beautiful way to think of food! Thanks,

I’ve never watched the food channel. I don’t watch TV at all, haven’t for about 20 years. This leaves a lot more time for cooking, reading, being with friends and all the other Good Stuff of life.

20. by anonymous on Jul 31, 2008 at 3:39 PM PDT

It drives me nuts that everyone thinks that somehow no one ever cooked anything homemade before Rachael Annoying as Nails on a Chalkboard Ray came along. She has zero talent either as a cook or a performer and yet she has convinced everyone that despite being a millionaire with a love of booze and ciggies, she is a loveable girl next door who is the only person who can teach those busy moms how to cook.

There are a hundred quick cooking meals in cookbooks that existed before Rachael Ray and they will continue to exist after her 15 minutes are up. There is a middle ground between long-cooking culinary masterworks and Rachael Ray slop.

21. by Fasenfest on Jul 31, 2008 at 5:44 PM PDT

Rachael Ray is a bizarre period piece. She is to this generation what the Galloping Gourmet and his “lovely wife Tish” was to ours -- odd and faintly informative. Graham Greene (I think the GG’s name) showed up again recently as a born again christian having given up the sauce once he and his lovely wife started looking like Burton and Taylor. But, he still is annoying. So not to worry, even if you shut Rachael down for a while my suspicion is she’ll pop up again in twenty years should your son want to watch her.

And I share the sentiment of that very little of what is being shown is in anyway new. It is just new eyes that is upon them. Go back to the classics (which is your point) and learn all that you need to know. Leave the wizz bang and hoo hah to those who forgot how simply astounding a perfect peach can be.

Yeah to a “return to nakedness”.

22. by Loulou on Aug 1, 2008 at 12:07 AM PDT

Bravo to you!

23. by Holly on Aug 1, 2008 at 1:23 PM PDT

Boy you hit a nerve here! In a good way, I think. :-) Add me to the RR intolerators, and the TV abstainers. Like the commentor above, my ex was on a constant IV of televised garbage. He would watch infomercials as if they were hard-hitting news broadcasts.

When I moved in with my current husband, he asked if I would mind if he cancelled the cable service--we have no antenna on the house, so that would mean no TV, period, and no shows other than what we brought into it. I said absolutely not; that was two years ago and neither of us have missed it.

Rachel Ray’s a liar, anyway--ever notice how many of her “30 minute recipes” rely on foods that are already prepared, like cooked chicken breast or cold mashed potatoes?

My Chinese chef/tai chi teacher put it well when he said, “It doesn’t take any longer to cook good food than to cook bad.”

24. by Kim on Aug 1, 2008 at 2:33 PM PDT

Happily, I just added Sarah’s recipes for Creme Pesto, Rich Vegetable Frittata, and Crème Fraîche, adapted from Diana Shaw’s book. Look for the sidebar within the story — “Featured Recipes.”

25. by anonymous on Aug 13, 2008 at 3:51 AM PDT

You’ve got a choice ... You can delete my comment because you don’t like what I have to say or you can leave it and allow others to judge for themselves if my logic makes better sense than yours.

Let’s face it, you seem to be missing the point ... These Food Network shows are there for entertainment purposes. Sure it’s not true cooking in the sense that everything is made from scratch like they do it in all time bestseller “Sweet Basil, Garlic, Tomatoes, and Chives” (Obviously the best seller currently resting on every cook’s kitchen counter across this great nation). But stop for a second and stop having an elitist attitude towards the individuals who look to the Food Network for some culinary inspiration. If a show brings one more person into the kitchen; and gets them thinking about preparing a meal instead of just pulling a box out of the freezer and tossing it into a microwave ... Then it’s importance outweighs the fact that they didn’t spend 12 hours preparing a special sauce that you might make once every 2 years from an obscure cookbook.

This article got sidetracked into territory that makes every one of you sound like you are better than the lowly individual who relies on TV for info and instruction. As I said earlier it’s an elitist attitude. The sort of thing you’d expect to hear from someone who just has to carry their baby around in a papoose while at Williams-Sonoma because Dr. Jaques Know-it-all reached into the brain of a baby and told all of you that the baby wants to be close to your heart to hear the rhythm ... If any of you believe that to be true (That anyone can begin to know what a baby likes or doesn’t like) then there’s a bridge in New York for sale.

Say what you want to defend yourself, I could care less. But when you go out of your way to knock what someone is doing to promote an activity like cooking, because they look to provide a good meal in the shortest amount of time, then aren’t you just compounding the problem. Aren’t you just saying to the world ... Look I’m glad you want to learn how to cook, but you are a complete idiot if you take shortcuts. Now run out and buy “Guiseppe Rothschild’s Meaningless Italian Sauces” from 1951. “Oh yeah ... You also need to have it translated, better yet, why not take an Italian language course so you can get the true feel of the book. But do not take it at a Junior College, be sure it’s an Ivy League School. One where you can have the luxury of waiting on your scholarship money or just put it on credit”

Sarah ... You write really well, but consider this. Why do you suppose my comment is only number 25 in 15 days since you posted your column? Could it be that you are speaking to a very very very small group of people that are like you in the way they turn their noses up at anything they don’t feel lives up to their high standards. The truth is this, and you know it. You don’t make every one of your meals from scratch and I’d be willing to bet you take shortcuts. Neither does the majority that sided with you. They, like you, have to spend their time spewing hatred towards the individuals who are trying to prepare decent meals for their family with the often limited amount of time available. They do this without relying on boxes of processed foods. Yet somehow that’s not good enough for you. You like to sit back and talk about simpler times; times when we were all going to change the world. But with you, it seems to be an attack on the individuals who sadly don’t have that extra minute to spare. Are you suggesting they should give up the hectic life and just let their families starve to death. Because affording more time to most of us means not affording to live.

Get mad if you want ... but take a moment and view what I have to say with an open mind. Surely you can see that your comments speak to us non-traditional cooks in a very condescending and hurtful way. Shame on you for trying to turn people away from something that could serve as a great starter to their journey into the world of cooking. Shame on you.

26. by chefjimbo on Aug 13, 2008 at 5:34 AM PDT

Since I made my first comment supporting the things RR has done I’ve been reading the comments of the nay-sayers feeling exactly what anonymous has stated that this thread is missing the point. Choosing not to watch TV and/or making things from scratch has nothing to do with RR’s accomplishments and the people who have been inspired to cook better food for their families. Thank you anonymous for responding and clarifying that point.

27. by Fasenfest on Aug 13, 2008 at 8:46 AM PDT

“Good meal in the shortest amount of time”? I have another suggestion. Go out to the garden. But then that opens up a whole other debate which is really at the heart of this one.

Let us be willing to understand why RR, or Martha or Betty Crocker (fictional) every showed up in the first place. They stood in for those things that went away -- local mentors and local foods. In one capacity or another they became icons of the new world, the industrialized world, the world of lost wisdom that invited the glitzy, gussying up of something that never needed to be.

That few of us has access to really local and really fresh can be seen as a political and social consequence of a decades-long march toward food system centralization and the ever burgeoning global food distribution system not to mention the growth of urban centers. That we are all looking to the grocery store instead of our gardens or RR instead of our mothers or grandmothers (or fathers) for insight is something else to think about. In the end, I believe that is the real heart of this conversation.

That the logic of eating fresh, cooking simply, starting with the best ingredients and avoiding all the silly wiz bang posturing (there I said it) is being seen as an elitist might be the best indicator of how far off the mark we have gotten.

I think it is hopeful that folks are trying to make their way back to something simpler and decidedly less self aware. Sharing the evolution of an a-ha moments is helpful to others on the search. And that Sarah is doing it through the considered revaluation of the devotion to celebrity cooking is certainly valid. Again, RR is a metaphor, a projection holder, a mirror to something else in our society. At least that is how I see it.

If, in the end, RR helps folks find their way back to the fold then more power to them. That Sarah and many others find it through other ways is honest but certainly not elitist.

And whether Sarah has received one or 1000 responses to her piece, she is still speaking from personal experience that I know to be honest and serious in it’s pursuit. I applaud her and will leave the T.V. audience to keep RR afloat. Evidently she has enough supporters.

28. by anonymous on Aug 13, 2008 at 11:25 AM PDT


It’s funny how you come to the defense of an idea that has no business being shared. Elitist is the word and elitism is what is going on here. How many of us have access to a garden? How many of us have access to a butcher or fish monger? You don’t have to be rich to get access to those things but you do have to have resources to do it on the level that Sarah speaks of and that you imply. It’s funny how this has become a debate on TV and everyone applauds Sarah for taking the easy way out. Oh my gosh! Newspapers are bad! Books are bad! Let’s burn them both! Let’s embrace simplicity but talk about making complex sauces! Isn’t that a contradiction. Sarah chose to write about taking TV away from her kids so 2 things can be known. That she’s in full control and that she’s a quirky person because she chooses to get rid of TV. I see it as a way for her to establish an audience. Unfortunately, the Amish don’t read many blogs do they?

It’s good to know that AOL Financial Experts have become the voice of food reason on Culinate. Maybe next week Mario Andretti can share Gardening Tips.

29. by donaleen on Aug 13, 2008 at 12:36 PM PDT

I can’t believe the venom in all this. Good lord. Is it really necessary to be so judgmental about Sarah? especially anonymously? I hope you don’t scare Sarah off... I, for one, simply enjoy her writing. That doesn’t mean I have to do everything her way or agree with everything she says. But I do enjoy her perspective. She ain’t boring.

30. by Fasenfest on Aug 13, 2008 at 4:26 PM PDT

Dear Anonymous,

I had no idea your comment was private. Sorry. I sent my own out in response assuming you were open to it. And I’m with donaleen. The less venom the better. I’ll leave it there.

Over and Out

31. by Marilyn Noble on Aug 13, 2008 at 5:57 PM PDT

My dear departed grandmothers are rolling in their graves at the thought that growing and cooking your own food could be considered elitist. I feel eternally blessed that they, my mother and my aunts were all around to share the joy of cooking and eating together, and that I have been able to pass that along to my kids.

To me, it seems that this whole discussion centers around the idea of choice. There are those of us who choose to spend our time cooking and experimenting in the kitchen rather than watching someone else do it. Some of us prefer to entertain ourselves with books rather than tv. There are those who take what they learn by watching celebrity chefs and adapt the ideas for their own use. None of those choices is wrong or elitist, nor is it wrong to choose to throw a quick meal together because you want to do other things. What works for me may not work for you, and there doesn’t need to be any judgment about that on either side.

I enjoy Sarah’s lyrical and honest writing and the exchange of ideas and perspective on this blog. I don’t appreciate anonymous comments trashing everyone else. That’s really uncalled for. If you want others to consider your point of view, try presenting it without such rancor.

32. by Fasenfest on Aug 14, 2008 at 8:15 AM PDT

I am only glad that there is at least one great defender of the disenfranchised, misbegotten and “least of these” on this site.

Who knew we were all only interested in designer baby names?

I, for one, am thankful for all the measured and thoughtful posting.

Let us all turn the TV back on, open up a brick of Velveta and, once again, be returned to reason.

33. by vesperlight on Aug 14, 2008 at 10:22 AM PDT


I hope you will be able to ignore “anonymous,” because she is clearly in a minority among your readers.

34. by anonymous on Aug 14, 2008 at 11:07 AM PDT

Yep Sarah ... I’m a minority amongst your 25 avid readers. Hopefully within the next year or two you’ll double the size of your group of lemmings. Hey! ... Do you guys hear it? ... Listen closely ... There’s a tree in the park in serious need of some hugging!!!

Now as fasenfest will obviously say about me ... Excuse me while I go eat a Spam-wich.

BTW: If Sarah is that thin skinned she needs to head out and do something else. As they say, “If she can’t stand the heat, she needs to get out of the room that houses her Viking Range and Sub-Zero walk-in refrigerator.”

35. by Fasenfest on Aug 14, 2008 at 11:35 AM PDT

Mmmmm, spam-wich. But why stop there? There are all sorts of choices for you to dine on and all sorts of places for you to go - some sub-zero and some not.

36. by James Berry on Aug 14, 2008 at 11:39 AM PDT

We at Culinate know that Sarah is a thick skinned gal, so we’ve been trying to let this conversation continue despite the spite this topic seems to engender. Personal attacks, however, are not a positive form of discourse, and we will remove any comments that go there.

37. by anonymous on Aug 16, 2008 at 7:44 AM PDT

I’ve been reading these comments with interest. There seems to be two camps here. One says that Sarah is being smart to give up TV and it’s untalented chefs. The other says this in an elitest standpoint.

I have often attacked Culinate in the past for elitism. One of the biggest issues associated with the “green” and “sustainable” and “local” movement, is that it is not a movement that is universally accessible. Being a “peasant” and growing your own food would require ownership of property on which to do so. Many of us, including me, are not that lucky. Farmer’s markets have quirky schedules and locations, which working people (particularly working poor who often work more than one job) do not have time for or are not conveniently located. If you can take a drive in the country where every farm has a stand, that’s great, but what if you can’t do that?

TV and Rachael Ray are a separate issue. We would all be a lot better off without both. I’m sick of the whole “Rachael Ray brings people back to the kitchen spiel.” One would think no one ever cooked anything before she came along. The “30 Mintue Meal” concept has been around for decades. Many cookbook authors have done it before and have done it much better. All Rachael Ray teaches her viewers is to throw a big, expensive hunk of meat on a plate (after burning it on the grill), cover it with expensive cheese, and then some cooked, expensive pre-cut vegetables covered with some sugary, fatty dressing. Rachael Ray is no more accessible to the masses than farmer’s markets (which she herself would enver use because they don’t cut your vegetables for you.)

38. by chefjimbo on Aug 16, 2008 at 9:16 AM PDT

To clarify some points:

1. Culinate is not written to appeal to the masses. It is for foddies of several ilks of social status.
2. Sarah’s comments on giving up TV and along with it chef’s preaching to the masses is not a problem for most who have read her article.
3. Originally I tried only to point out that RR is preaching to the masses and feel as though she has contributed to bringing people back to the kitchen from eating a diet of Fast Food.
4. RR is not for everyone, and certainly the 30 minute meal concept is not new and can be interpreted at several different income levels utilizing those products that one has ability to procure. Be it Greenmarkets, farm stands, Whole Foods, the corner produce market or a Food Bank!
5. Elitism comes into the picture when others have commented that RR has no value. I’m simply saying that she has value for some, not for all and I’ll go out on a limb here and say that most people who enjoy Culinate are not exclusively her fans!
6. Also Elitism is prevalent when one wears blinders and doesn’t realize that their methods for providing healthy, nutritious, fast or slow, meals for their families are not the only methods employed by everyone. The world is a big place and we need to embrace the fact that others are making strides at doing the “right” thing. In our nation alone we are battling obesity which is more prevalent than any scourge that we’ve overcome ie: plagues, polio, small pox, etc. Everytime someone chooses fresh or frozen ingredients (not prepared processed) from the grocery store over a drive-thru meal, we’ve made another positive step in improving our nation’s health.
7. So in conclusion there’s nothing wrong with Sarah giving up TV and TV Chef’s and expressing her views on the subject. Just as there’s nothing wrong with recognizing the effect some of these chef’s have had on the general public. After all, if RR were not successful at TV and book promoting many here would not have had her to complain about!

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