I have 67 cookbooks. 67! Julia Child, James Beard, Jim Fobel, Patricia Wells, Barbara Kafka, The Silver Palate gals…to name a few. And those are only the ones in active rotation. There are other “collectible” cookbooks around the house too – my 1950’s Happy Housewife book, for instance. . I also have countless back issues of Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and my new favorite, Fine Cooking. Not to mention the literally THOUSANDS of recipes I’ve cut out from newspapers and magazines over the years. Those fill another four notebooks and a little index card file. There are the recipes I keep in my online Epicurious folder, the ones I’ve saved to my hard drive, and all those recipes that are just stuck in my head. No paper necessary.
I’ve made my own pastry for Beef Wellington (an oldie, but a goodie). I made most of my kids’ baby food from scratch. I’ve cooked squid and duck and venison. I’ve flambeed cognac, and made my own fish stock. I even have a kick-ass (secret) recipe for Pear and Leek soup. Sounds weird, but man, is it good.
Why, then, do I find myself turning, more and more, to Rachael Ray?
Let’s face it, Rachael Ray is not exactly an haute cuisine kind of gal. She’d be the first to admit that, probably. She’s self-taught, a little rough around the edges, maybe. Somehow, that only makes me like her more. No pretense. Kinda nice, in a world of Eric Riperts and Charlie Trotters.
Still, this is kind of like the classical musician who admits he loves the muzak rendition of Shostakovich’s 5th symphony, or the art-film director who secretly loved “From Justin to Kelly.” I’m not supposed to like Rachael Ray and her recipes. I’m supposed to turn my nose up at her simplified Beef Wellington. I’m supposed to think her take on Coq au Vin lacks depth and is inauthentic. And maybe it is. But I don’t care. It’s fast, it’s easy, and that “lack of depth” means that my kids will eat it. Gotta love that.
See a while back, a PR person contacted me asking if I’d like to try out a new Rachael Ray recipe widget on my site. Well, no. But I did put it on my Google home-page, and it turns out, I cook from it: a lot. Every week, the Widget has a week’s worth of recipes. Sometimes, there’s NO WAY I would even consider making the recipes: I’m never making something with one full cup of heavy cream. At least not if I want to fit into my pants (or leave the bathroom)
But most of the time, the recipes are simple and quick and, did I mention?, my kids will eat them. Fifteen minutes prep time. Twenty minute prep time. You know you’ve simplified when a 30 minute recipe seems like it’s taking too long. I mean, I once made a recipe from a Jean-Georges Vongerichten cookbook that had me roasting the zest of oranges and then grinding them in a spice grinder to make orange dust for some scallops. They weren’t even that good.
I must admit, I find it a bit depressing. What next? Will I decide I don’t like designer duds anymore and I’d rather wear appliqued snow-man sweaters? Will I feel the need to frost my tips? Get flowers painted on my fingernails?
Maybe so, but for now, all I care about is quick, tasty, cooking that even my kids will love! And if you have a problem with that, well, don’t come over for dinner!