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Exactly. Perky is a serious problem for me too, especially in this instance, and triply so since my mystery author has three syndicated TV shows on the Food Network - that is, sightings are inevitable. It doesn't help matters that her dog's name is Boo, nor that she murmurs "mmmmmmm" a dozen or so times during the course of a 30-minute show, then giggles like a pigeon in its death throes. And I'm only getting started. Do you know what EVOO is? You don't want to know. Strangulation has crossed my mind more than once, and if you think my take on this is a minority opinion, Google her name juxtaposed to the word "annoying," and watch thousands of confirming results appear before your eyes. Oh - and if you haven't figured out who this is yet, here you go (and you can thank me later):

Rachael Ray

The book I'm talking about is none other than Rachael Ray's Open House Cookbook (Lake Isle Press, Inc., ISBN: 1891105043).

It was originally marketed as a companion volume for a local TV news segment she did in Albany, New York, called "30-Minute Meals" - that is, it was published before she became internationally notorious. As soon as this and one other show ($40 a Day) were syndicated, however, and she began to attract a following on the Food Network, things heated up. And this brings me back to the enigma.

Do you get this? I don't - I mean, I can understand this thing having some value. On a good day, maybe $20. $30 tops. But $127.50? 28 Buyers waiting? On which planet?

My first thought was that, like John Kerry's The New Soldier (a forgettable, formerly low to mid-range book published decades ago which has consistently sold for hundreds of dollars in recent months), this is simply a matter of a book being valuable because it pre-dates a rapid onset of celebrity status. It was written when she was nobody - or almost - and when she suddenly became somebody, it was sought after for the same reason collectors enthusiastically seek anything that's early and far less common in a writer's life. Well, 2000 is not early; a print run in 5 figures clearly spells "common," and celebrity status? There are dozens of TV chefs who enjoy (or in the past have had) more status than Ray; many have written books in similar circumstances; and yet, after an exhaustive investigation of TV chefs' first books, including those with highly rated shows on the Food Network, I wasn't able to come up with a single comparable example. Even Emeril Lagasse, Food Network's flagship chef, eats Ray's dust.

Another thought was that we might have cult figure in the making, but if so, surely she's got to be the most unlikely candidate for one I've ever seen. Cult status is usually achieved by relatively fearless individuals with a predisposition to live on the edge, to push the limits of what's been previously acceptable and venture into new, sometimes dangerous territory. A cooking show that demonstrates easy to make family meals hardly qualifies as a hotbed of controversy, and Ray herself is about as edgy as a soccer ball.

This could be grasping for straws, but desperation has produced one other possible explanation. Word is there's a new drinking game that's sweeping college campuses across the country. 30 minutes long, it is, no time-outs, and it's played in front of - you guessed it - one of Ray's shows. Every time she utters a Rayism (e.g., "party in my mouth," "come to mama," "this is insanely good," "yummo," etc.) or does something quintessentially Ray (like rolling her eyes and tilting her goofball head at a coquettish angle, slopping more garbage into her infamous garbage bowl, or mimicking a short orgasm when she tastes something she's ordered at a restaurant), you take a stiff drink. Heck, even if you aren't playing the game, this may be de rigueur. Some Rayisms are so revolting that a chug is summarily ordered. (I won't inflict an example on you here.) Anyway, the point of the game is to make it through an entire show without passing out or - and I'm guessing this happens to even seasoned players - bolting from the room in an advanced state of horror, wailing, "No more! No more!"

So - is this the force driving the collector's engine?

You tell me. I've supplied you with the facts as I know them. And, after revisiting them during the process of producing this monograph, I remain officially baffled. If you're not, write me, post something in the forum - whatever. Please. I need to get to the bottom of this before I spend one more culinary moment thinking about this and become a helpless, brewski-pounding Raybot myself.

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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