I never caught the show Californication until just recently, but I liked it for many reasons, most of which have to do with me wanting to be Hank Moody, a once-famous dark author struggling with writer’s block and knocking around LA in a beat-up Porsche. I wouldn’t even need the stable of barely-legal hot women Moody beds every episode; I really just want the rat-trap Venice apartment and the southern California sun 360 days a year with no sign of a full-time job. There are times I miss every little aspect of my brief time in LA back in 2008, and when I watch that show, it makes me want to be back so much more.
But one of the many other things that also resonated was the character Chloe Metz, who was kinda-sorta this Rachel Ray-inspired character (see here for a clip). More specifically, the Lew Ashby character summed it up with the term “hate-fucking”, which is where you want to sleep with someone but you also want to punch them in the face, which was pretty much my initial reaction to Rachel Ray. I first saw her stupid cooking shows on cable, sitting around my Astoria apartment on Saturday afternoons, killing time between Monster Truck showdown and when the first early reruns of ER showed up. She had a certain attractiveness to her, more of a cuteness than a sexiness. But she also reminded me of so many of the high-rent women in New York that I ran across in my dating disasters, which mostly made me want to throw things at the TV and drink heavily. High maintenance is fine if you’re building a supercomputer or a nuclear reactor, but doesn’t work well in dating scenarios.
I don’t care for or follow Rachel Ray anymore, but the other night, I was reminded of her insanity because I had a recipe from some magazine of hers for an eggplant and zucchini Rattatouille that claimed to be a half-hour recipe. We have this recipe system where my wife rips out recipes from a million different magazines that we get, a lot of them things she gets for free from work, and they all go in various boxes and binders, and then we later sift through this rubble and pick out 7 random things to try out per week. And this one looked good, from the standpoint that it’s winter and it looked like a nice “warm” dish. (And yes, I’m a pussy because winter here is like 60 degrees, and in the city of my birth in North Dakota, it’s roughly 70 degrees colder, and in the land of my childhood back in Indiana, it’s maybe 18 with roughly two feet of snow.) So I bought the two dozen required ingredients, and did not read the recipe until I was in front of the stove and prepping the vegetables, and then I realized the error in choosing this damn thing.
The odds of finishing this damn thing in 30 minutes were roughly the same as the odds of driving from Philadelphia to Tampa in under three hours. For example, step 7 just said “roast the red peppers”. Never mind that something else was already going at a different temperature in the oven which precluded the use of the broiler; you can’t roast red peppers in under about 18 minutes, plus the time it takes to peel off the charred skin. Even if I had a second oven and hired labor that I could just tell “go roast these damn peppers, chop chop”, I’d probably need to know this in advance. Like, step 1 would be “you’re going to need roasted red peppers for step 7, so get that shit started now.” The zucchini was also sliced, breaded, and lightly fried, which for two large zucchini, frying on each side for one minute, is roughly a half an hour right there. Also, this recipe involved using every damn pot and pan in my kitchen three times.
And here’s what really burns me. A month or two ago, I made this biryani from scratch, from some British magazine. It was a huge pain in the ass, because it had maybe three dozen different moving parts, and just the prep alone took me about an hour, plus maybe 40 minutes of active work and an hour of simmering. And of course, every ingredient was in metric, so I’ve got the iPad sitting on the counter the whole time, googling how many ounces are in a liquid furlough or whatever. (And if your god damned metric system is so great, why don’t you go down to the local pub and order a 473 milliliter instead of drinking a pint?) But here’s the takeaway: this biryani was GOOD. It tasted way better than if I just bought a paste or powder in the ethnic cuisine aisle of the Kroger, mixed it with three other things, and called it a day. This Rachel Ray monstrosity? Not an order of magnitude better than just throwing some vegetables and a jar of Ragu in a pot and simmering for a half-hour.
Maybe I did it all wrong though. Maybe I need to buy her overpriced pans and her signature olive oil and her bright orange plastic tong set and her made-in-china knife set. Maybe I need to put on a stupid grin and get all Stepford and buy a necklace with giant beads on it and say “YUM-O!” when I taste things. Maybe if I act so annoying that the average person wants to punch me in the face while I am cooking, I will magically teleport through the time-space fabric of the universe as I am cooking, and six hours of labor will become 30 minutes.
Fuck it, next time I will just get the Safeway store brand ragu sauce and spend the extra five and a half hours playing Black Ops.