Ace’s Read It and Eat It — December 2021
This Must Be the Place: Dispatches and Food from the Home Front
By Rachael Ray
Rachael Ray’s new “cookbook” — her 27th — is the closest she’s ever come to a full-on memoir, but there’s one hiding in there, in between the recipes. With This Must Be the Place, she chronicles her year at home with her husband John, as the two of them produce her show mid-pandemic, mostly on iPhone, at least at the beginning.
But she digs deeper than recipes this time around, and admits that this book “crosses that line,” the line she’d always tried to maintain between home and work.
The pandemic left her no choice but to invite viewers into her home-style production of her show. She admits, “I’ve always thought of my home upstate as a refuge, a safe place away from my career in the public eye… I wanted to keep our secret garden, our crazy fort, our treehouse/clubhouse to ourselves, to be shared with only our closest friends and family.”
Five months into the process, just as she’d begun to solve the supply chain issues and wrestled her home pantry into an OCD dream suitable to a television production, their home burned down, and they moved both their lives and their production to their guesthouse (admittedly a high-class, unrelatable problem for most, but no less tragic). Three days after the fire, she writes, “I had a message from my producers: we need pictures of the guesthouse and your plan for how to proceed.”
She also writes movingly, and very specifically, about the heartbreak of her vet making a housecall to help her put her ailing dog, Isaboo, to sleep — finding some consolation that the silver lining of being forcibly housebound meant they’d spent more time with her during “the last months of her life than at any other time in our fifteen years together. Again, in loss, we look for meaning.”
Of course there are recipes: one pot wonders, an imaginative grilled-cheese sandwich, and cocktails (mostly from John), pastas, and a lot of takes on chicken. There’s also strategies for coping with shutdowns, as she and her friends came up with zoom “Cook Alongs” (the See You Next Tuesday Cooking Club, adding “whether you get the joke or not, our food is amazing!”)
The book wraps up with a section on “Hope for the Holidays,” as she looked for things to be grateful for in a year that saw the loss of their home of 15 years and their dog of 15 years. And she found many… like her friends who replaced her cookbook collection, with accompanying letters written by the chefs themselves (including Jacques Pepin); like the painting of their dog by Howard Stern that somehow survived the fire; and of course there’s the new rescue in their life, Bella.
And if you need a clever way to use up all those holiday leftovers, there’s a Pilgrim Sandwich featuring turkey schnitzel that just might do the trick.
This article also appears on page 17 of the December 2021 print edition of Ace.
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