Commentary

Every Day with Rachael Ray

Food snobs love to write off (or let's face it, spit on) Rachael Ray, with her chunky, unappetizing-looking-and-sounding concoctions, (''figure-friendly sausage'') her too-cutesy phrases, (''yum-o!'') and her tendency toward booming self-congratulation (''smells awesome already!'')

I understand where they're coming from, but I have to admit that in a too-too-perfect Martha Stewart world, I find some of Ray's generally goofy, loosey-goosiness endearing.

So, despite the borderline-parody cover, featuring an open-mouthed, laughing Ray holding up a piece of watermelon, I dived into the latest summer issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray, the Reader's Digest Group magazine that will appear 10 times this year.

But my good will hit the rocks by the very first editorial page, ('Rach's Notebook''-- can't they say ''Rache?'') where in her first four words, Ms. Ray drops Oprah's name ''I remember when Oprah stopped by my talk show...." as a way of announcing ''the launch of the Yum-o! Organization.''

It will help kids and families ''take control of their meals and improve their eating habits'' -- always a noble and useful thing in light of the growing obesity rate of children in this country. But ''Yum-O?'' Yuck-o.

Next! I had to read this letter several times in the ''Messes and Successes'' section, because it seems to have slipped in from a Rachael Ray parody edition. A certain Maryellen Hope of Toronto, writes: ''I was just about to serve the herbed chicken I'd prepared for dinner, when my partner noticed the unlabeled jar of catnip she'd been storing in the spice drawer was sitting on the kitchen counter. I'd mistaken it for basil and used it to season the chicken! On the grounds that catnip is just another member of the mint family, we went ahead and ate the meal anyway."

What the hell!

Celebrities generally like to hang with other celebrities, and there are several stars featured in the pages of the magazine. I kid you not, right up top, we get ''Bob Barker's Summertime Pasta Salad," introduced with a "come on down!" joke. What, no spayed and neutered jokes?

Speaking of unappealing, for some reason a whole page is devoted to the eating habits of one-time "NYPD Blue" star Dennis Franz. This is the man who famously showed his ass on camera, and his food choices are no more inspired. He starts out his day with ''a cup of coffee with sugar-free hazelnut creamer.'' Yum-o! Worse, do we really need to know that he then takes half a cup of Fiber One cereal with berries? Talk about TMI! The only thing worse would be an illustrated guide to Larry King's carotid artery diet.

Certainly, it's not all bad. There's useful entertaining info (put a placecard in each dinner roll!) and the general look of the magazine is downright cute and snappy. The taste testing of ice pops is fun, and the June/July Everyday menu planner seems handy.

But best of all, unlike Rach's celebrated 30 Minute Meals, which tend to take mere mortals much more time than that, my reading time for the magazine clocked in at just under 28 minutes. And that was positively catnip for this lady!

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