It’s easy to look at yourself like a failure when you try to measure up to the likes of Rachel Ray. “And remember: a delicious, healthy meal is never more than 30 minutes away.” Bullshit. Unless you’re referring to the neighborhood Chinese take out joint located a convenient 3 blocks from home. And we all know that’s neither really delicious, healthy, nor is it actually chicken.
Whenever I attempt to make one of Rachel’s purported 30 minute meals, I’m in for a good 50 minutes to an hour and twenty, I shit you not. Granted, she appears to be doing it all herself in real time, without benefit of the combined labors of a team of 12 behind the scenes. But that’s just not reality.
She carries everything over in one, mile-high pile of ingredients from one convenient location. Yeah, like that happens. I don’t know about you, but everything I need for any given meal is scattered to the four corners of our little kitchen. I make 10 trips if I make one from the pantry; from the fridge; from the cabinets; from my basement stash of canned goods and excess cooking utensils. I’m just not that organized.
And I consider myself lucky if I don’t break a glass dish. I’ve lost two floating candle bowls that happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time – innocently sitting on the counter. They came to their untimely demise when I knocked several spice bottles out of the cabinet above while attempting to find the one I needed that had been shoved to the back over time. Believe me, a glass clean up adds a lot of extra minutes to one’s 30 minute meals.
Plus, Rachel’s always rushing. How relaxing is that? Not to mention the quality control issues it creates. Whenever she’s cutting up her veggies, she throws in even the butt-ends of tomatoes, zucchini, whatever she’s chopping because she’s under a time crunch.
That’s not what goes on in the McFerguson kitchen. I would be mortified if someone bit into the tail end of an eggplant under my watch. Forget the fact that everyone who eats at Chez Meaux is probably ingesting untold amounts of cat hair – I have to have standards somewhere.
Rachel also uses several time-conserving tactics that just aren’t feasible for me. For instance, she likes to promote positioning your cutting board right next to the stove as if we all have that luxury. I think the counter space between my range and my sink is about 7” wide.
And then there's the garbage bowl she swears by; I’m not exactly sold on it. In theory, it’s convenient, but I like to recycle. I think of it as my little contribution to preserving the earth’s limited resources, even if the garbage man – excuse me, waste manager – hauls it all off to the same landfill. My conscious is clear. But when I’m throwing everything into the same bowl – carrot peels and empty plastic containers with broken eggshells – the chances of separating the compost from the recyclables are fairly slim.
Rachel also has one thing the rest of us don’t – an endless supply of kitchen towels at her disposal so she doesn’t even bat an eye if she has to squeeze the water out of her defrosted spinach. I don’t know about you, but I can’t just throw away one of my beloved, pink-striped Williams-Sonoma towels after staining it for all time pulling that foolish stunt.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of Rachel Ray and her 30 Minute Meals and I watch her show from 6-7 whenever I can. Unlike my husband, who claims she doesn’t actually cook anything, I don’t mind that fact that she’s not making everything from scratch. Who the hell has time? I don’t and all I do is work; I don’t even have kids to contend with. So it doesn’t bother me. But what does bother me is the fact that her recipes are anything but 30 minutes long. At least not for a culinary-challenged person like myself.
One of my first attempts at preparing a whole episode’s worth of Rachel’s recipes was the night she featured Rosemary Chicken Breasts, Brown Butter and Balsamic Ravioli, Warm Spinach Salad with Pancetta and Sweet Vinaigrette. It was delicious and I recommend you check it out if you have an hour and a half to spare.