Wait a second. It’s not that easy. In an interview on Nightline last night with Cynthia McFadden, Martha Stewart had some not very nice things to say about Rachael Ray. The problem is that every single one of them was true. AND Rachael often says them herself.
Martha expressed exactly what I’ve always said about Rachael. She called her “an entertainer”, while she considers herself “a teacher”. Martha made the excellent point that you want your teacher always to be perfect. You don’t want to learn French from someone with a bad accent, for example. True.
I’ve said this over and over - if you took the cooking away from Rachael Ray, I would have no problem with her. I think she’s charming, friendly and connects beautifully with an audience. She’s a real “entertainer”, but I run from the room when she gets behind the stove.
Why does this remind a little of another teacher/upstart duo? Except in that case, Julia was the beloved, warm-hearted, fun-loving but oh so knowledgeable teacher and Julie was the snarly wanna-be, who some thought shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath.
Martha and Rachael are far more equal than that, but, really, this is so fascinating because the two of them are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Yet both are wildly successful. I can’t imagine the diehard fans of either superstar supporting the other one.
Another thing that Martha called Rachael out on is something that also irritates me – that Rachael refuses to bake. She always says it’s too complicated, that she’s a cook, not a chef, yada, yada, yada.
My feeling is if someone can work like a dog putting together a gazillion dollar empire than she can work a KitchenAid and produce a cake. My mother used to say if you can read, you can cook (thanks A LOT for that, Mom!), but it is somewhat true. And if you have SOME kitchen skills, putting together an easy baked good is not beyond anyone, even Rachael Ray. I get irritated by her selling herself short and settling for such mediocrity.
Martha also complained that Rachael’s latest book is just a rehash of some of her old recipes. Martha said to Cynthia, “That’s not good enough for me.” When SHE does a book, she wants it to be “unique and lasting, something that will really fulfill a need in someone’s library.” She wants it be worthy of a place on your bookshelf.
And yet, one can’t argue with the millions and millions of books that Rachael has sold of these one note, heavily meat-based recipes that people can’t seem to get enough of.
A friend said to me the other day that AT LEAST RR has gotten a lot of people to actually cook. These same folks would probably be buying convenience meals or getting take-out. THAT is true. The ONE good thing about Rachael’s cooking is that she uses real food and, thankfully, hasn’t come out with any boxes or mixes (like Martha is developing), at least not yet. Rachael just has her beach blanket sized, fire hazard dish towel line, along with every other possible kitchen accoutrement, including my favorite - where to put your garbage.
Anyway…as an adjunct to Cynthia’s piece on Martha, Cynthia interviewed Rachael, who must have thought it would be a couple of soft questions about having had Martha on her show. She started out by saying that Martha “killed it. She was hysterical”.
THEN Cynthia told Rachael what Martha had to say about her. After just a split second of looking like a deer in the headlights (or the headlines, in this case) Rachael came out with her standard mantra. If you can’t beat ‘em, just agree. And that’s what she did.
Rachael agreed with every single word that Martha said - that the plain truth IS that Martha’s skill set is far beyond her own. She said “Why would that make me mad?” to Cynthia’s constant peppering her with questions. She said Martha was just being honest, that SHE (Rachael) herself would rather have a meal cooked by Martha than eat her own food.
I think, more than anything, what Martha suffered from was a stunning lack of good manners and Rachael exhibited tremendous grace when asked about Martha’s comments. Even though I’ve seen her react to criticism this way before, I am still amazed by Rachael’s even-temperedness on the subject. AND it didn’t help that Martha’s attitude during the entire interview was superior smugness. I know people say she’s impossible, but I’ve always admired her tenacity and work ethic - something that she and RR have in common, by the way.
So who won this smack down? Hands down, The Queen of Mean was bested by the Patroness of the Garbage Bowl. Martha should really learn that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then you should just button it up.