Friday, July 20, 2012

Rachael and Me

I am not an ad-libber in the kitchen. Far from it. I think it's great that some people (including a few related to me) can open the fridge and pantry and make culinary magic happen with a can of anchovies, a jar of mustard and a cantaloupe. I am recipe-bound and probably always will be. As Seinfeld would add, "Not that there's anything wrong with that!" I just feel more secure following in the footsteps (by steps by steps) of another chef when mealtime rolls around. Julia Child, James Beard, Marcella Hazan--I love 'em all, and credit them with some of my favorite dishes. No dessert, in my opinion, tops Julia's chocolate mousse; Jim's oatmeal bread is to die for; Marcella offers a bit of heaven on a plate featuring veal, asparagus and fontina cheese. Why attempt to improve on perfection?

I guess part of me hesitates to experiment because I tend not to trust my instincts in general. I torture myself over everything I've said and done each day (stupid! hurtful! thoughtless!) and wish there was a "Life for Dummies" manual I could purchase. But in the world of food there ARE primers, and if you follow directions, lo and behold, you can achieve success.

From time to time I check out food blogs (Smitten Kitchen is a popular site), but I much prefer using my old-fashioned, grease-spattered cookbooks to lugging the laptop into the cooking area. I still use Child et al, but I have become a rabid fan of Rachael Ray. This confession inspires strong emotion among my friends. You either love Ray or you hate her, I've discovered. Some find her on-screen persona annoyingly perky (I don't watch much TV so rarely catch her show). She does use quite a few buzzwords and phrases, I admit, and some of them are a little too cutesy-pie (yum-o, and EVOO--extra virgin olive oil--spring to mind). But let me tell you, the woman can cook! I now own 6 of her books and have never hit a clunker...everything turns out great.

Rachael is fearless when it comes to seasoning. I gulp, but obey, when she calls for 8 garlic cloves, or 1/2 cup of hot sauce, in a single recipe. She enjoys putting odd ingredients together (Thai Chicken Pizza, Philly Cheesesteak Mac and Cheese), and pulls everything off with confidence. As a result, I can follow her lead and feel kitchen-confident as well.

On the page, at least, Rachael Ray exudes good humor and boundless enthusiasm for food, and life. I envy her that. What am I boundlessly enthusiastic about these days? I honestly don’t know. I do know I’m exhausted, so maybe I should give myself a break when I’m not leaping for joy every moment.

It’s overcast this afternoon, and gloomy. I’ve been writing a new essay, and it’s not going very well so far. It would be great to feel successful about something today.

I know! Tilapia Sammies with Honey-Citrus Slaw!

Thanks, Rach.

No comments:

Post a Comment