And verily, Oprah came unto Rachael. And Oprah spake, "Blessed are you, for you are Rachael, and upon this rock I will build my television empire. And neither the gates of the netherworld nor that has-been Martha Stewart shall prevail upon it."
Sorry for going all biblical on you, but there was a whiff of heavenly annunciation about this morning’s episode of the new Rachael Ray talk show. There were miracles (a fan told a story about how she used her Rachael Ray knife to chase off an intruder in her apartment: "And that’s how Rachael Ray saved my life!"). There were gifts for the multitudes (new fall shoes for the audience, courtesy of Zappos, plus pasta and pizza from Ray’s studio kitchen). And, with Oprah Winfrey visiting Ray, whose show is made by her production company Harpo, an anointing.
Oprah literally descended from the sky, lowered onto the stage in an open elevator. Ray handed her a cocktail of pomegranate juice, which we will assume was transubstantiated into the blood of Oprah, which she freely gave to us. While making a pizza together, they talked about Oprah’s leisure interests (she "grows" artichokes, apparently), her vacation home (on a mountain in Hawaii), her charitable works (schools for underprivileged girls) and likes and dislikes. "I don’t like wussy things," Oprah said. "I don’t like wussy things either!" Ray chimed in. (OMG!!! We’re like soulmates!!!) To cap off the Oprah-grandizement, Ray folded the edges of the pizza over to make, yes, an O. "How awesome is that!?" Ray exclaimed.
There were a lot of ingredients in Rachael and Oprah’s pizza–arugula pesto, prosciutto, roasted peppers, smoked mozzerella, sausage, portobello mushrooms–and you could say the same of Ray’s show. There’s a little cooking, a little fashion, a little girl talk, a little seriousness of purpose and a little female empowerment (girls need role models, it’s OK to carry a little fat, you don’t need a man to open a jar for you). It’s basically a lighter version of Oprah’s own Chicago deep-dish recipe, and over a pair of pizza slices, Oprah bestowed on Ray her blessing. "The first time you were on my show," she told the beaming Ray, "I said to my producers, ‘That girl has got it. She should have her own show.’" For once in her life, Ray actually seemed slightly embarrassed.
All in all, Oprah may be right, even though I’ve never been a fan of Ray’s cooking shows. (That’s partly because I don’t need a TV show to teach me to cook what are basically back-of-the-box recipes, but mainly, I think, because I am afraid that in a moment of excitement she will crash her head through my TV screen, open up her giant mouth, jointed at the back of her head, and eat me, anaconda-style.) She’s definitely a stronger dose of espresso than I’m ready for at 10 a.m. ("You’re so lucky you’re SEATED," she told her audience before Oprah appeared, "because you’re going to need to GRIP and SIT and–UGGH!")
But she’s relentless, and there are worse qualities in a host. Just don’t expect me too sit too close to the screen when she’s on.