Emmy Award-winning chef Rachael Ray has the sort of life to make any foodie's mouth water: her own cooking TV shows, including "Rachael Ray," "30 Minute Meals," "Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels" and "$40 a Day," a series of bestselling cookbooks capped most recently by "My Year in Meals" and a handsome rock-star husband to test her creations. She told Bookish about her and her mother's cookbook collection--everything from Jacques Pepin to Mario Batali--her dream of having Harper Lee over for dinner and more.
Bookish: Which of your cookbooks was the most fun to write, and why?
Rachael Ray: The first "30-Minute Meal" cookbook--that was only sold in Price Chopper grocery stores--I wrote with my mom, and we just sat and chatted about grandpa, [and] what we love most about cooking. I love my first children's cookbook, "Cooking Rocks!" I love the first Smart Book I did, "Look and Cook," which had over 600 pictures and videos. And I love "My Year in Meals," my first co-author with my husband, John. I love it because it's a scrapbook of our real, day-to-day lives. I want each book project I take on to have its own personality, and there's something special about all of them.
Bookish: Which of your cookbooks do you enjoy cooking from the most?
RR: I guess the one that's the most current is the one I cook from the most, so "My Year in Meals." There are a lot of things in there that I'm still cooking today. It's always going to be the book that I wrote [most recently] because that's part of my day-to-day repertoire.
Bookish: If you were stranded on a deserted tropical island with one other chef, a knife and a skillet, who would you want to be stranded with, and why?
RR: I don't want to be stranded on any tropical islands because I don't like the tropics. If I had any other cook on the island other than me, I would want my mother.
Bookish: Which chef, cook or cookbook has had the biggest influence on you?
RR: My mother is the biggest influence on my life, in or out of the kitchen. I'm a fan of a lot of cookbook authors, from Sophia Loren to Marcella Hazan, to Mario Batali, to Adam Perry Lang's grill books. I have an enormous cookbook collection. Julia Child, of course. Jacques Pepin. Between my mother and me, between the two of us--I don't know, I can't even imagine how many cookbooks we have.
Bookish: What's your all-time favorite 30-minute meal?
RR: Don't have one--I don't pick favorites in food. My husband's favorite is carbonara.
Bookish: How about your favorite meal that is impossible to make in 30 minutes but you wish it could be?
RR: Any slow-braised meal, this time of year: beef in barolo, coq au vin, cider beef--my mom's cider beef. I like lots of braised meals.
Bookish: If you could invite your favorite author, living or dead, over for dinner, who would you invite and what would you serve them?
RR: Harper Lee. My favorite character in literature is Atticus Finch because I think he's a great dad, and I don't think there's anything better you can be. So I'd want to sit and chat about what a great man she made out of Atticus.
Bookish: Do you ever read cookbooks for pleasure?
RR: Sure, all the time. Who doesn't?
Bookish: As you create recipes, are you thinking about how they can be described in a book?
RR: No. I write from my imagination. I write everything in little notebooks and then I decide after the recipe comes into shape where I want to put it: 30-Minute Meals, or the daytime show, or "Week in a Day." Or some things I just make at home, for us--and I don't share those with anybody.
Rachael Ray is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 cookbooks including "My Year in Meals" and "The Book of Burger." She is the host of the Food Network’s "30 Minute Meals" and "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off," and the Cooking Channel’s "Week in a Day." She is also the star of the syndicated talk show "Rachael Ray;" founder and editorial director of her own lifestyle magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and founder of the Yum-o! organization.