EVOO, anyone?

I’ve a friend who kids me that I’m a huge fan of Rachael Ray. This is our little inside joke because I believe Rachael Ray’s evolution as a tv host has turned her into a loud, spastically gesticulating freak of nature.

In the past, she was not like this (Rachael Ray, not my friend). In her previous incarnation, she was calm, didn’t pepper her speech with idiotic and repetitive phrases (as much), and actually made food that had some thought behind it. I’m not against the 30 Minute Meals (30MM) philosophy entirely. There is, after all, a time and a place for everything. I’ve always thought her 30MM were generally lacking a well-rounded nutrition level, but this is often what you get when putting something together very quickly – and it beats ordering a pizza or grabbing a greasy burger, although those also have their time and place. Overall, in the past, it was not unpleasant to watch RR demonstrate whatever it was she was making during that particular show.

Now, however, it’s an entirely different story. I’m not sure if her fame has gone to her head or if someone at Food Network told her to take it up a level, but she is a screeching harpy now, giggling inappropriately, gesturing with every single word she says, and generally being quite ordinary and uncreative with the meals she demonstrates. That she has four shows in rotation on FTV at this time does not help matters: her exposure level is akin to that of a camera with its shutter left open for an overextended period of time, resulting in a whitewash of what the picture was supposed to be.

I was watching the Next Food Network Star, and in one episode, they took a contestant to task for repeating several stock phrases. Somehow, I don’t think they’ll be saying the same thing to Emeril and his “Bam!” or to RR and her “Yummo”, “How cool is that?”, or the worst, “EVOO – that’s extra virgin olive oil.” Memo to RR: if you have to tell people what it stands for every time you say it, then don’t bother saying it in its abbreviated form. Just say extra virgin olive oil and move on. And why must everything be fried in extra virgin olive oil? An even more important question is why RR insists on frying naturally greasy items like bacon and sausage in extra virgin olive oil. My mind tries but fails to understand why this is necessary. Her culinary disintegration is apparent in the things she prepares these days, as if the well is running dry. Beyond her increasing reliance on burgers of all types, and her “stoups” – a not quite a soup, not quite a stew, but entirely stupid idea – and her total lack of any vegetable product in quite a number of her later recipes, there are some eye-poppingly horrid creations. This is one. This one, however, is worse (and, I will note, something that contains exactly zero veggies on the menu, opting instead for mac and cheese, hot dogs, and caramel popcorn-covered ice cream balls for dessert). We won’t even go into her too-cute-for-words naming conventions for her recipes. Calling something “Micro-way-cool Bacon and Green Beans” is not cool. Unless you’re a 30-something woman with a cooking show trying to act like you’re still in your late teens or early 20s and showing off just how clever you can be. Her alcohol consumption on her other shows, particularly on Inside Dish, can be appalling, especially when it seems she is soused to the gills, as she appeared to be on the ID episode with Morgan Freeman.

It’s a shame, really, as I used to appreciate what RR did to get people who might not have been cooking into the kitchen to at least try something, even though I have to gnaw my lip when she says just eyeball everything or repeats for the millionth time that she doesn’t bake (would this be because you hate to measure things, and baking takes measurement in order to be successful?). Now, though, she’s ranking right up there with Sandra Lee and her Semi-Ho dreck. I’d say I have hopes RR will turn herself around, but with the direction FTV is taking toward entertainment over actual cooking, I’m not holding my breath on that.