The Great Ray Debate


(from food network)

A week ago, on Michael Ruhlman’s blog, Anthony Bourdain spewed his classic disdain on the subject of the food network. We chuckled, as did many, while others poo-poo-ed Bourdain’s snobbery.

Today, Grub Street weighed in, to defend Rachael Ray herself:

For an amateur, taking tips from Rachael Ray is no less legitimate than a good cook learning from Lidia Bastianich or Mario Batali. (And that’s leaving aside the class issue — Ray’s special appeal to the hard-working people who barely have the time to make meals for themselves and their families.)

This particular point inspired us to join in on the debate. People often defend Ray by accusing her detractors of classism and food snobbery. After all, her empire rests on her accessibility, the image of Ray as a regular gal, a non-professional, etc.

Our problem with her—aside, of course, from the baby talk and gufawing—is that her food doesn’t just look bad, it looks dangerously fatty and in many cases, not cost efficient. If Ray’s passion is for the regular, hard working families who might otherwise turn to cheap, greasy takeout, she has an opportunity—if not an obligation—to explain that buying pre-shredded cheese is barely a time-saver and a huge waste of money, or that eating that much cheese to begin with is unhealthy as well as avoidable—even on a budget.

Believe it or not, this blogging gig doesn’t pay the big bucks, either, and we are also not a professional cook. But we know it’s not some great secret that dinner can be thrown together in half an hour and still be nourishing and tasty—without a lot of money, without a theme, without an obscene pile of melted goo. If anyone is being classist, maybe it’s Ray and the Food Network, who seem to believe the only way to capture a broad audience is to feed them cheese puffs.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 16, 2007

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