Egghead vs. Bobblehead: Round One

Christopher Kimball, the bow tie–bedecked alpha male of New England’s food nerds, finally took his shot at Rachael Ray in this month’s edition of Cook’s Illustrated.

As you might expect, the jab emerged in the midst of a typically elegant yet rambling editor’s column that jumped around between rabbit-hunting, World War II, and teaching 11-year-old Charlie about “the birds and the bees.”

He was too cagey to call the yappy-trapped kitchen minx out by her proper name, but can there really be any debate about what he’s driving at here?

In cooking, there are folks who are fundamentally curious as to process … and sympathetic toward the notion of culinary education…. Others are content to believe that cooking is about no more than positive attitude—anyone with sufficient enthusiasm
can cook a great meal. This golden age of the American amateur has been a long time coming.

While not quite rising to the level of Anthony Bourdain (who famously dissed
Ray—by name—as a vomit-inducing “bobblehead”), the put-down is clear. Cook’s Illustrated readers are smart, curious, and humble before the awesome task of making good food—and the Food Network’s increasingly attractive and undereducated hosts are barking up the wrong tree.

Let it be known: There is no one more in Kimball’s corner on this issue than this writer. And yet … it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Ray after reading Kimball’s underhanded jab. Is Ray annoyingly upbeat? Sure. Undereducated? Arguably. But condescendingly catty? Not on camera, at least. Score one for the bobblehead.

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