Book Excerpt: Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life
New York Times writer Kim Severson reflects on some of the women she has interviewed through the years ... including Rachael! Read that portion of Kim's memoir!
Reprinted from SPOON FED: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life by Kim Severson by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright © 2010 by Kim Severson
This is the truth about me and my people. I can go to all the fancy dinners I want and collect celebrity friends and journalism awards, but I am a girl predisposed to ride a snowmobile to the Dairy Queen.
I am the daughter of a woman who grew up on a dairy farm and a man who lived in a basement until his father could build a house on top of it. I am not a Detroit street tough, as I once wished I was, nor a wealthy East Coaster with a fancy degree, which I used to think came with the keys to the kingdom.
I have a state school education, a drinking problem and I like girls, not boys. I don't tan well, I'm always about 15 pounds too heavy. I'm not so great with money and I sometimes act before I think. But I'm also (most days) a helpful citizen of the world. And I have gotten pretty good at being a daughter, a wife, a friend and, lately, a mother.
In other words, I'm me.
It would take another few years to finally realize that trying to be something I'm not wasn't going to get me anywhere except miserable. And spending a little time close to the tornado that is Rachael Ray helped me understand the value of authenticity. The most valuable thing I have is who I am.
Rachael Domenica Ray, small-town cheerleader turned cooking rock star, and I, Wisconsin Dairy Queen turned writer, share a couple of essential traits. One is that we are inclined, out of fear as much as ambition, to work hard. The other is that we are who we are largely because of our mothers.
An Italian daughter and her mother have a special bond. The sons might be the princes, but the daughters are the ones who will suffer for their mother in ways the boys will never know. We take the brunt, and we get the rewards. But mostly, we work our asses off to live up to our mothers. Because, at least in my case and Rachael's, we live under the idea that our mothers worked much harder than we did, that we will never be good enough and that without them we will be lost.
Pleasing your mother becomes a maddening art form for Italian daughters. It can feed a drive that ends up producing some pretty good results, but it also produces a kind of over-reliance on ambition. It can set a girl up for a lifetime of trying to be something other than exactly who you are. And that is one of my key character defects.
Just about the time I was really in the middle of the scrum in New York, trying to fit in at The Times and make my way through a city where ambition runs through the gutters, I decided I wanted to know more about Rachael Ray. Say what you will about her food style, her love of the phrase "yum-o" and her 30-minute shtick, but Rachael has led a whole generation for whom The Joy of Cooking might as well be the Koran and the drive-through lane the family dinner table back to the kitchen.
Other women whom I admire for their cooking skills and their dedication to keeping us all at the table might not like that Rachael is among my teachers. But she is really the bridge between someone like, say, Marion Cunningham and people in their 20s and 30s who are as comfortable cooking as they are texting. I don't think Rachael planned to be such a big part of America's move back to the kitchen, but I do think she knew instinctively that people missed cooking for each other, and they were longing for real food. The best part is that she is unapologetic about her own culinary skills and her reliance on short-cuts.
"I have no formal anything," she said. "I'm completely unqualified for any job I've ever had."
- latest show clips
- celebrity friends
- cooking videos
- rachael between the scenes
- backstage pass
- tips and stories
- be on the show
- set tour
- audience tickets
- rachael's bio
- what's rach wearing
- rach on the radio
- follow us on twitter
- join us on facebook