Bites Into Martha
Maggie Van Ostrand
about comeuppance, that's what Martha Stewart (65) is getting, now
that the young "upstart," Rachael Ray (38), has hit Tv's domestic
scene with the velocity of a hurricane hitting the Bahamas.
Rachael Ray's culinary expertise on The Food Network, on which she
has several separate shows (30-Minute Meals; $40 a Day; Rachael Ray's
Tasty Travels; Inside Dish), is first-rate, and that was before she
was given her own hour-long daytime show on ABC. She has hit the bigtime
ground, and she has hit it running.
The Rachael Ray show is categorized as a "talk show." but it's more
like what you'd get from an offspring of a marriage between Oprah
Winfrey and Robin Williams -- smart, of the people, high energy, original,
Rachael Ray not only has her own line of products, including EVOO
(extra virgin olive oil), cutlery, cookbooks, and cookware, she signed
with Epic Records to introduce viewers to a series of soundtracks
with songs she handpicked for their listening pleasure. According
to Entertainment Tonight, Rachael says, "We've created soundtracks
that I would listen to or play at a party, starting off with my picks
for Christmas and a funky mix for kids. I start singing holiday songs
on Thanksgiving weekend -- that's when my tree goes up as well --
and, the kids' CD is filled with music that both kids and parents
might enjoy." The first two soundtrack releases, "How Cool Is That
Christmas" CD and Rachael Ray's "Too Cool For School Mixtape for Kids"
are in stores now, and other titles will be introduced in 2007.
Through the Epic deal, Rachael, she of the killer smile, has also
created unique cellular voicetones -- ringtones featuring messages
from Rachael -- to all major U.S. carriers.
Besides all that, Rachael struck a deal with Reader's Digest, which
publishes Every Day with Rachael Ray, a magazine which will increase
to ten issues next year.
Time magazine, which named vivacious Rachael one of the 100 most influential
people of 2006, recently published an article by chef Mario Batali,
who points out that she "has radically changed the way America cooks
dinner. Her perky-girl-next-door swagger, her catchphrases for techniques"
(she doesn't measure ingredients, she "eyeballs" and then "palms"
them and, tasting the results, she invariably shouts "Yum-O" or "so
delish" while "stoup" is a cross between stew and soup) "and her dinner
ideology of simpler, less expensive and just in time have sold billions
of books and placed her at the top of the talent love heap ... "
On her talk show, Rachael Ray doesn't claim to know everything about
homemaking, fashion, and whatever the current rage is, but her guests
do. For instance, last week featured an informative bit on "cutlets,"
which were once referred to as "falsies" and which are making a comeback
for those who are in financial fear of going under the plastic surgeon's
knife. Her guests who are hip to fads, fashions and fun, don't do
much actual cooking. That's still Rachael's domain. The show offers
many quick tips to help ordinary people achieve success in, well,
just about everything except maybe Sumo wrestling. Maybe next week.
There are times where she looks a little overweight but that's okay.
In fact, that's one of the reasons so many women identify with her.
And she makes no apology but says only, "I have three sets of clothes,
one for each weight." You've got to love that attitude.
Rachael's philosophy is "I want to laugh and eat something in every
show. It's very important to me that everything is accessible. People
love that sort of friendly advice and that sense of community when
you get advice from a peer instead of an expert."
The expert Rachael refers to could be Martha Stewart, former peerless
domestic goddess of the airwaves, who doesn't object to letting viewers
know that she does know everything. In one of her pre-Thanksgiving
shows, Martha said it was not necessary to refrigerate a particular
food item overnight, just to keep it cool. She couldn't resist adding,
"I have my own cooling room." Who could identify with that? The only
other people with cooling rooms are probably Warren Buffet and Bill
Gates. Okay, maybe Tom Cruise.
On the same Thanksgiving show, Martha began by stating, "We have purposely
made the kitchen dangerous," to then tell us what pitfalls to avoid.
She pointed out that the handles of pans on the stove should "never,
never" face out because "little hands" might topple the pans off the
stove, causing injury. She turned the handles in toward the back of
the stove showing viewers how to be correct. Yet, later in the same
show, Martha herself inadvertently turned those same handles outward
again, and left them that way. She has also developed the habit of
frequently saying "uh" between words, which makes her sound insecure
Perhaps it was Martha's stint in the pen that frightened her into
such a careless state of mind, perhaps it was her own alleged snobbery
that did it. Or perhaps she simply cannot stand her first and foremost
competition, the young and vital Rachael Ray.
You'd think one of the inmates at "Camp Cupcake" would have warned
Martha to stay alert by looking over her shoulder like a normal ex-con.
If she had, she would've seen Rachael coming fast, like a juggernaut.
It's not that Martha isn't good at everything, but her pseudo uppercrusty
attitude puts her in a class the average woman cannot identify with.
It's that Rachael's one of us, and Martha's one of them.
Batting Averages: Rachael Ray: 1000, Martha Stewart: 0
Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
10 , 2006 column