“You Have Time, and You Should Cook, Tonight:” Erasing Feminized Labor on 30-Minute Meals 

“You Have Time, and You Should Cook, Tonight:” Erasing Feminized Labor on 30-Minute Meals 

Peitho Volume 26, Issue 2, Winter 2024

Author(s): Ashley M. Beardsley

Dr. Ashley M. Beardsley is an Assistant Professor of English and Director of the University Writing Center at Western Illinois University. She holds an MFA in Writing and Poetics with a concentration in Poetry from Naropa University and a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing Studies from the University of Oklahoma. She dabbles in HTML and CSS as an Associate Editor for Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy and uses baking as her creative outlet and research. Her research interests include food rhetorics, media studies, and feminism. You can find her work in the Popular Culture Studies Journal and Writing Spaces. 

Abstract: Home-cook-turned-television-personality Rachael Ray began teaching viewers how to cook in 2001 on the Food Network show 30-Minute Meals. Across thirty seasons, Ray demonstrates how cooking television promotes time-space compression through fake-outs: shortcuts that make dishes seem more complicated. In this article, I use strategic contemplation to analyze episodes from season nineteen of 30-Minute Meals and cook from Ray’s 2007 cookbook Just in Time! to argue that instructional cooking texts (TV shows and cookbooks) erase the labor associated with feeding other people by omitting time spent laboring over a meal. Throughout, I incorporate my mom’s relationship with Ray and cooking alongside my kitchen labor to demonstrate how Ray minimizes necessary steps that occur before and after cooking.   


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Duty typically implies a responsibility to or for other people.

-Sarah Hallenbeck and Michelle Smith  

For dinner Saturday night, I made “Shrimp Scampi Verde” from home cook-turned-television-chef Rachael Ray’s fifteenth cookbook, Just in Time! All-New 30-Minute Meals, Plus Super-Fast 15-Minute Meals and Slow-It-Down 60-Minute Meals—with a few modifications (180-1). The recipe calls for fresh linguine, but I didn’t bother checking to see if Wal-Mart even had fresh pasta—I had a box in the pantry. Next, I replaced the chicken stock with the Better Than Bouillon Vegetarian No Chicken Base (I’m a pescatarian). I did use basil, parsley, chives, arugula, EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), garlic, red pepper flakes, and dry white wine, but I opted for frozen shrimp instead of fresh and used Country Crock plant-based butter (I have a dairy allergy). As the shrimp was frozen, I ran the one-and-a-half pounds of seafood under cold water for about seven minutes, a step not accounted for in Rachael’s instructions.[1] 

From there, I set up the rest of my ingredients. Although Rachael goes back and forth to her fridge and pantry on her cooking show and explains ingredients while she roots around her spice rack, I like to get out most of what I need in advance. My mise en place ready, I salted the pasta water and began chopping. By the time I had pulsed the herbs, arugula, and stock into a paste, the water was ready, so I dropped the noodles and began cooking the shrimp in a skillet, adding the garlic, red pepper flakes, and bright green sauce. It took me forty-one minutes and thirty-seven seconds from defrost to dinner. We will return to the cooking time later in this article after I tell you a bit about how Rachael uses what seems like a small amount of time—thirty minutes—to erase the feminized labor associated with cooking by means of shortcuts, or fake-outs.  

In her first TV show, 30-Minute Meals, which premiered in 2001, home-cook-turned-television-personality Rachael Ray made half an hour seem like ample time to whip up impressive, comforting dishes.[2] In this article, I study Ray’s temporal rhetoric by analyzing recipes and episodes from 2006–2007 to examine how instructional cooking texts’ hyperfocus on time (e.g., meals that take thirty minutes) erases the feminized labor associated with the daily act of cooking. Such an erasure of work as work, especially when it comes to cooking, has yet to be fully explored by feminist rhetoricians. As Sarah Hallenbeck and Michelle Smith explain, “the erasure and invisibility of much women’s work is an enduring problem” that rhetorical scholarship can illuminate (201). The labor of cooking—which includes essential pre-cooking steps like making a grocery list and shopping and post-cooking clean up—is rendered invisible, because views of gender and work are based on the notion that acceptable women’s work prioritizes “subsistence work” like “cooking, cleaning, [and] sewing” (207). Focusing on the role of time in rendering women’s work less visible, I argue that omitting time spent laboring over a meal conceals labor that most often falls on women. In addition, I fold in my personal connection with Ray’s work to build on feminist rhetorical scholarship that explicates the ways time and gender are accounted for and discounted in relation to work and examines the kitchen as a rhetorically gendered site often discounted as a workspace. As Jessica Enoch’s archival-based spatial rhetorical analysis of diverse materials—including everything from architectural schematics to government bulletins—demonstrates, studying everyday artifacts promotes a fuller understanding of the way women engender and regender space. I add instructional cooking television shows and their hosts’ cookbooks to Enoch’s list of rhetorical artifacts that co-constitute space and gender (24). Such materials account for and discount the gendered labor associated with cooking, and, through these materials, celebrity chefs participate in constructing gendered spaces that hide women’s domestic labor.  

To do so, I employ feminist rhetorical practices, specifically strategic contemplation, as I cook from Just in Time! and watch 30-Minute Meals to identify and unpack the impact of Ray’s central temporal rhetorical strategy: shortcuts. I begin by explaining how I chose one of Ray’s cookbooks and specific 30-Minute Meals episodes. Then, I use episodes from season nineteen as a case study to interrogate Ray’s use of time and, as the epigraph from Hallenbeck and Smith notes, explain how Ray minimizes time to present cooking as a duty associated with the responsibility of feeding others. Though Ray promotes the idea that people who work outside the home have time to cook, I (re)consider the feasibility of such recipes through my own perspective, as a slightly-above-average home cook. Although I focus on what Ray’s cookbooks and shows obscure, I conclude by noting how she incorporates the senses to teach viewers an embodied way of cooking. Ray’s teaching style is reminiscent of learning to cook by being in the kitchen with someone and acts to empower home cooks.  

What’s for Dinner? Selecting and Analyzing Recipes and Episodes 

When I was a kid, I would ask my mom a question that makes my adult self bristle as one of the people in my household who plans meals: “what’s for dinner?”[3] My mom was prepared to answer (and take me to Taco Bell if she’d planned something like stuffed peppers, a dish I never learned to like). Our dinners usually involved pasta or sandwich-type items featuring chicken or ground beef; indeed, in many ways, they resembled the dishes taught on the instructional cooking show 30-Minute Meals. Such shows fall into the “cookery-educative” television genre, which seeks to build cooking literacy through a charismatic host who demonstrates how to cook (Matwick and Matwick 11). Rachael Ray was the first on-screen cook my mom and I connected with through the kitchen TV.  

In 2001, the first episode of 30-Minute Meals aired on the Food Network channel and began promoting a temporal rhetoric that uses time convince viewers there’s no excuse not to cook. Originally called the Television Food Network (TVFN), the channel’s programming focused on “serious chefs” and restaurants (Collins 162). Despite this focus, Ray was not considered a chef, because she didn’t learn her cooking skills in culinary school—she is self-taught and gained experience teaching customers how to cook at a specialty food store. Her cooking classes at Cowan & Lobel, a gourmet grocery store in Albany, New York, embraced the thirty-minute meal rule and developed Ray’s expert status through her connection with shoppers—she was a home cook feeding family and friends, just like them. The cooking classes were three hours long, and attendees left with enough thirty-minute meal recipes to prep a month of food (Diamond). The TV show, however, wouldn’t have worked as a three-hour program, because 30-Minute Meals needed to focus on one complete meal to help viewers get something on the table in real time and keep them engaged.  

Overall, the tightly timed format worked. With thirty seasons of Italian-inspired, time-friendly meals and twenty-six cookbooks to choose from, I needed to select recipes to make and episodes to analyze, so I approached Ray’s materials like the high school kid asking my mom, Shelly, what’s for dinner. I used strategic contemplation to engage in an imaginary conversation with Shelly about Rachael Ray because my prior experience with Ray centers my mom and her daily cooking. As Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa Kirsch explain, strategic contemplation is a way to embody research that involves “engaging in a dialogue, in an exchange, with the women who are our rhetorical subjects, even if only imaginatively, to understand their words, their visions, their priorities whether and perhaps especially when they differ from our own” (21). After watching several 30-Minute Meals episodes from random seasons and imagining Shelly was there, I became fixated on Rachael’s cookware line, which launched in 2006, shortly after her daytime talk show, Rachael Ray, began airing. 

My current obsession with her pots and pans occurred because they marked a milestone for Rachael in my mom’s kitchen: Shelly bought them for herself one Christmas. By that point, we already referred to extra virgin olive oil as EVOO, the shorthand we’d learned from Rachael, and, although Shelly watched for entertainment rather than culinary instruction or dinner ideas, Ray was a regular household presence. I can’t be sure whether the cookware was a 2006 or 2007 purchase; however, knowing my mom’s affinity for acquiring the latest kitchen gadgets, I settled on using materials from 2006 and 2007, which led me to cook from Just in Time! and analyze season nineteen to mark a time when Rachael and the orange nonstick cookware entered our home.  

There are thirty episodes in the season.[4] Because this article seeks to understand how instructional cooking shows employ time as it relates to women’s daily cooking, seven episodes were omitted because of their connections to holidays or their emphasis on hosting rather than the day-to-day cooking in a family home.[5] Then, I asked, “What would Shelly make?” My mom did not like cooking and spent the least amount of time possible in front of the stove, so if she were going to make one of Rachael’s recipes, she would have gravitated toward simplicity and familiarity. Thus, I searched episode descriptions for mentions of simple and easy. Our dinners often featured chicken or the popular soup and sandwich combo, so those were the next keywords. As I watched, I used strategic contemplation and feminist rhetorical theories of time and gender (Enoch; Hahner; Hallenbeck and Smith; Jack) to see how Ray articulates relationships between cooking, duty, and time, watching for mentions of cooking techniques that expedite cooking. In light of these criteria, my analysis focuses particularly on the episodes “Half Baked,” “Simple Three Course Italian,” “Reuben It In,” and “Dinner in Florence.”   

To engage in an embodied exchange with my mom and Rachael, I needed to cook, but due to my dietary restrictions, I couldn’t make the dishes from the selected episodes.[6] Instead, I cooked from Just in Time!, published in 2007—the year season nineteen aired. I highlight my cooking experience making the “Shrimp Scampi Verde,” because it captures my average cook time and was the dish I enjoyed the most. To inform my analysis, I also modified and made the fifteen-minute “Chicken or Shrimp Fajita-Tortilla Soup” (86), “Sorta-Soba Bowls” (118), and “Fish with Ginger-Orange-Onion Sauce” (202), and the thirty-minute “Green-with-Envy Orecchiette and Red Wine-Braised Sausages” (132), “Can’t Beet That! Drunken Spaghetti” (134), “Whole-Wheat Pasta Arrabbiata with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes and Arugula” (145), and “Charred Chili Relleno with Green Rice” (170)—all from Just in Time!.  

As I cooked and watched episodes, I became increasingly aware of how Ray mentors home cooks by speeding up the work of cooking through shortcuts that distract viewers from the labor and, more specifically, the time associated with cooking. In what follows, I explicate how Ray’s multi-course meals use fake-outs to promote a temporal rhetoric that applies gendered stereotypes of duty to obscure cooking as labor. 

Three Dishes in Thirty Minutes? No Problem 

You have always got time for a great meal. 

-Rachael Ray, 30-Minute Meals sign-off 

At the end of each episode, Ray encourages viewers that a great meal, which includes several dishes, is something they always have time for. However, Ray notes in an interview that she makes multiple dishes per episode, because “every second on television” must be filled (Sagon). Ray also notes that viewers more often than not “just do the entrée and a side and don’t bother with dessert,” showing that she recognizes most home cooks will not serve a three-course meal. Nevertheless, the show’s emphasis on the simplicity of multi-course meals overshadows Ray’s understanding of how viewers interpret the dishes, reinforcing the message that, to be a successful home cook, you should prepare multiple dishes in thirty minutes or less. Such an emphasis on speed connects to Jordynn Jack’s descriptive concept of time-space compression—a notion often associated with technologies that “seem to accelerate or elide spatial and temporal distances” in favor of efficiency (57). Time-space compression teaches viewers to “speed up production cycles” or, in this case, cook time, to produce more food, without recognizing the labor associated with cooking (57). Such rhetorics perpetuate the patriarchal expectation that women are responsible for cooking regardless of whether they work outside the home. Here, I use time-space compression, specifically the ways that work connects to time in the present and immediate future, to examine how Ray focuses on the present, ignoring pre-cooking prep like shopping and post-cooking cleanup. I consider the implications of this compression to understand how erasing steps of cooking labor contributes to devaluing cooking as work.  

Furthermore, Ray’s concept of thirty-minute meals mirrors the time-saving rhetoric dominating twentieth-century cookbooks, particularly those published in the 1950s and 60s. These cookbooks encouraged the use of convenience foods (e.g., frozen dinners and canned vegetables), adopting “the radical notion that cooks should speed up their work as much as possible” (Inness 19). Similarly, Michelle Smith emphasizes that we must consider gendered technologies (like stand mixers and ovens with easily adjustable temperatures) that “succeed or fail in liberating women from domestic drudgery or reproductive determinism” (9). Acceptance of such items allowed women to spend less time in the kitchen, and using pre-made ingredients became commonplace; however, they did not change who was responsible for cooking. Ray’s recipes align with the acceptance of pre-made ingredients, especially when it comes to dessert. For example, “Coldie but a Goodie” is the only episode from season nineteen that mentions dessert. Spumoni ice cream sandwiches conclude a pasta-filled meal with a side salad, coming together quickly as Ray calls for pre-made chocolate cookies, a jar of jam or fruit spread, and two pints of ice cream.  

Although shortcuts can expedite a meal, using pre-made ingredients reinforces the gendered expectation that women can whip something up at a moment’s notice. “In order to understand regimes of time,” says communication scholar Leslie A. Hahner, “we must not only interrogate the public circulation of temporal discourse, but also the ways in which time is unevenly distributed and articulated to various subjects” (290). In the case of 30-Minute Meals, women are given a specific amount of time to complete the task at hand—cooking for others—because it is a form of feminized labor. In Ray’s world, the unspoken dictator of time is the mundane act of getting dinner on the table for your family, and occasionally guests, by a specific time. In my childhood home, that time was 5:00 p.m. My mom planned her day around having dinner ready “on time.” In the sections that follow, I address how the time-space compression of 30-Minute Meals promotes cooking for others as a gendered duty and deploys fake-outs to minimize the labor associated with cooking. Throughout, I situate these observations in relation to my personal experience making Ray’s recipes.  

The Intrinsic Duty to Cook for Family and Friends 

Let’s return to my Saturday night dinner. My evening plans consisted of cooking, so I wasn’t annoyed that it took forty-one minutes to make the garlicky shrimp. The added time might seem on-point when including the time to thaw frozen seafood; however, this wasn’t a thirty-minute meal. According to the cookbook, the “Shrimp Scampi Verde” is a fifteen-minute dish (Ray 180). In a 2004 Washington Post Interview, Ray admits that making these meals in the amount of time she stipulates is a stretch. “I can do it in 30 minutes,” she says, “but not everyone can. I’m used to cooking. I chop fast” (Sagon). Based on my experience with Ray’s recipes, her admission that the average home cook may need additional time certainly applies to the fifteen-minute entrées. I can’t chop nearly as fast as her, but I consider myself pretty adept with a knife. I mention the additional cook time here because my experience informs my central argument that cooking texts render work invisible through temporal restrictions that discount necessary steps beyond active cook time.  

By focusing on the act of cooking itself (the present), Ray obfuscates the more dispersed work that goes into cooking for others. Despite the added time, the recipe headnote reflects my reaction as I mopped my bowl with a slice of fresh, homemade sourdough bread: “Too easy! Too good!”[7] As food rhetorics scholar Carrie Helms Tippen argues, headnotes “reflect and reform the narratives of the culture they claim to represent” (12). Such mirroring occurs in Ray’s cook time, headnotes, and commentary throughout episodes and is similar to the way twentieth-century cooking texts, like 30-Minute Meals, advertise quick dishes that use convenience items like frozen vegetables and store-bought elements to fulfill the responsibility of feeding others (Elias; Inness). The headnote continues: “I wrote this for [actress] Stephanie March to cook up for her hubby, the spicy Bobby Flay. It is herbaceous and ridiculously delicious. Your mate will kiss you for it again and again” (180). Bobby Flay, a professional chef who still has television shows on Food Network, is more than capable of cooking for himself and others, yet this dish is written explicitly as an easy entrée his wife can make for him.[8] The subtext here is that, even after a busy day on set, March is expected to have the time to cook for her partner. The “fifteen-minute” dish uses efficiency to obscure her career in favor of the patriarchal duty of cooking for her husband, discounting the shopping and prep time that most likely does not fit easily into March’s work schedule. These gendered constructions incorporate efficiency as a guiding principle promoted at the end of the nineteenth century as “an ultimate term for organizing labor in the factory, school, and home” (Hahner 293). Indeed, we saw how Ray incorporated pre-made items into dishes like the spumoni ice cream sandwiches mentioned earlier, demonstrating how to structure labor at home (cooking) efficiently. Part of being an efficient home cook is making enough food to feed others. For example, the Just in Time! introduction includes the note that the recipes “serve four unless otherwise noted” (Ray 16). One reason the recipes serve multiple people is that cooking a single serving requires more daily cooking time, and I can attest that cooking for four saves me time—I made the full shrimp scampi recipe so I could enjoy it that night, eat leftovers later in the week, and freeze a portion for a future lunch or dinner when microwaving was all I had energy for. While I did spend less time cooking throughout the week, my initial cooking labor and the reason I might choose leftovers or something from the freezer—my job as an assistant professor and writing center director—are ignored.   

Despite excluding entertaining from my dataset, I saw how 30-Minute Meals’recipes also serve four or more people, employing time-space compression to obscure feeding others and the duty associated with cooking. From mentioning that the pasta e fagioli al forno (a casserole-style dish) is easy to bring to a potluck or school function (“Half Baked”) to preparing Reuben mac-n-cheese to take to a new mother (“Reuben It In”), Ray implicitly tasks viewers with cooking to sustain people outside their immediate family. One meal, a Florentine-inspired prosciutto-wrapped chicken with spinach fettuccini and a gorgonzola cream sauce, takes the cake for episodes that ignore the labor of cooking and hosting a meal.[9] “Need to impress somebody in a hurry?” asks Ray at the beginning of “Dinner in Florence.” “Well, here’s your recipe for success. It’s a meal for six in thirty with a big wow factor” (00:00:00–00:00:09). Again, Ray emphasizes that the home cook is responsible for feeding other people, and viewers are welcomed with a statement that reinforces time-space compression before they have had a chance to entertain the idea of cooking a multi-dish meal with items they have never cooked—and possibly never eaten—before. The work of preparing food for six is compacted into thirty minutes as Ray describes the Florentine prosciutto-wrapped chicken, spinach fettuccini with gorgonzola cream sauce, and puttanesca tomato salad with fried capers as a “simple and elegant meal that’s perfect for making a big impression,” all in the name of efficiency (00:00:24–00:00:28. Overall, Ray teaches viewers that they should strive to awe their guests with their food, and, to do this quickly, she promotes making impressive dishes that rely on fake-outs.    

Incorporating Cooking Fake-Outs 

Across cooking texts, Ray uses fake-outs to accomplish time-space compression. As Ray’s opening for “Dinner in Florence” draws on the time-saving rhetoric associated with the show, it obfuscates the labor it takes to entertain a party of six through ingredients that might not be easily accessible. Ray uses time-space compression to present the meal as a fake-out, directing viewers’ attention toward the present act of cooking. The dish calls for spinach fettuccini noodles (a pasta made with a bit of spinach in the dough), pine nuts, and Prosciutto di Parma. Ray often explains foods to U.S.-based viewers by breaking down unfamiliar ingredients in a subtle act of feminist historiography, reintroducing flavors removed from nineteenth-century cooking texts that catered to white, middle-class taste to craft a shared identity (Enoch; Neuhaus; Tippen; Walden). For example, in “Simple Three-Course Italian,” Ray explains giardiniera as an “Italian hot pickled vegetable salad” that can be found in the salad bar section of a store, with the appetizers in the deli, or in the Italian foods section (00:17:41–00:17:59). Here, Ray teaches viewers about an ingredient and uses food to cultivate identity. Calling for Prosciutto di Parma for the Florentine-inspired chicken underscores the Italian identity Ray draws upon to write recipes; however, Ray relies on the authority she established as an Italian home cook in previous episodes and does not explain the ingredient.   

Furthermore, purchasing ingredients like giardiniera and Prosciutto di Parma can present a challenge and require additional shopping time. While I could not go back in time and grocery shop in 2006, I was curious: can I find all these ingredients at Wal-Mart? What about the employee-owned supermarket HyVee? Shopping list in hand, I went to both stores in search of the ingredients to make guests feel like they were having dinner in Florence. I easily found all the items except one: spinach fettuccini noodles. Neither store had these on the shelf. If I wanted to make the dish, I would buy regular fettuccini; however, Ray does not acknowledge that an ingredient may be challenging to find or require trips to multiple grocery stores. What she does explain is that the dish is a “good fake-out” and that “only you have to know it took half an hour” (00:02:53–00:02:56). Here, Ray promotes fake-outs as a way for women to feel accomplished in the kitchen and supports the notion that they can balance working outside the home and cooking. Yet my Florentine shopping experience demonstrates that while Ray does indeed give viewers recipes that do not take hours to make, she fails to recognize the time required across planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up.  

Such fake-outs are Ray’s primary rhetorical move. Although Ray uses a variety of proteins (e.g., chicken, tuna, and lamb) in her show and corresponding cookbooks, recipes focus on casserole fake-outs—cooking pasta on the stove, mixing it with meat, veggies, and more, pouring it in a casserole dish, and broiling it for a few minutes to “make it look bubbly and like it’s been in there all day, like a lasagna dinner” (“Half Baked” 00:01:09–00:01:14). These fake-outs are her way of modifying dishes so they appear like time-consuming entrées, rather than “simple” bowls of pasta with store-bought bread and a side salad. As a home cook, I enjoy this approach because Ray gives me ideas for dishes I can throw together after work, but as a rhetorician, I find that the guise of thirty minutes and cooking trickery contribute to normalizing gendered invisible kitchen labor—a normalization I benefited from when I asked my mom what we were having and expected her to have a plan. 

Notably, the trips to the store do not reflect my weekly grocery shopping patterns. I went shopping despite having already purchased groceries for the week, making what my mom would call a “special trip” for ingredients. What my experience does demonstrate is that “time-space compression condenses the range of temporal concerns,” such as meal and event planning, grocery shopping, the act of entertaining, and post-event clean-up to serve up a rhetorical situation concerned with the present (making the food) and immediate future (feeding guests or family) (Jack 57). Ultimately, Ray’s fake-outs are an example of time-space compression that supports the feasibility of cooking a meal in thirty minutes to adapt gendered ideologies to contemporary circumstances, conveying that, regardless of what women do outside the home, they are (still) responsible for feeding others.  

Conclusion: Measuring Ingredients as a Return to an Embodied Way of Cooking  

After consuming a comforting bowl of pasta, there was one thing left to do that Ray doesn’t account for: clean up. I packed the leftovers, wiped down the stove and counters, swept, and did the dishes. About twenty-five minutes later, the kitchen was back in order. Are you keeping track of the time I spent? The “simple” shrimp and pasta dish consumed a little over an hour of my time, excluding meal selection and grocery shopping. Throughout this article, I have presented my experience cooking from Rachael Ray’s cookbook Just in Time! and analyzed her instructional cooking show 30-Minute Meals as twenty-first-century cooking texts that ignore the labor of meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking for others in favor of time-space compression that focuses on the present act of cooking and eating in the immediate future. In doing so, I explained how a rhetoric emphasizing women’s responsibility to cook and entertain and the use of fake-outs hides the cooking labor designated as women’s duty.  

However, alongside her temporal rhetoric, Ray also offers viewers an embodied, multisensory way of cooking. Thus, I will end by acknowledging that her rhetoric contributes to recovering and circulating cooking knowledge that some viewers would not have access to otherwise. For instance, Ray combines precise measurements and embodied cooking instructions in the written “Shrimp Scampi Verde” recipe. She calls for one teaspoon of red pepper flakes and half a cup of dry white wine, but incorporates sensory cues that tell readers they can “eyeball it” (180). Similarly, Ray instructs viewers to “eyeball it” when adding grated cheese to a dish and to “add a little more in there once ya eyeball it” when whisking stock into a cream sauce (“Dinner in Florence” 00:05:52–00:05:53; 00:14:52). Such sensory instructions seem contradictory to Ray’s promotion of quantified efficiency in that they embrace cooking’s intuitive qualities in favor of using the senses to bring people and food together in a way that informs how we know the world. Even though viewers like my mom might watch Rachael cook on TV for entertainment, she permits cooking to taste in a way that relies on the senses and embodied knowledge. Ultimately, while Ray contributes to societal expectations that women cook dinner, she uses a combination of exact and sensorial cooking instructions to teach her audience.  

Overall, rhetorically analyzing two of Ray’s cooking texts reveals that using fake-outs—a form of time-space compression—is her primary rhetorical strategy; however, her embodied, multisensory notes provide potential opportunities for future research. Even though I watched episodes for indications of time and efficiency, I began to wonder how Ray and cooking TV shows more broadly keep recipes alive by evoking the senses as a way of knowing. To frame such knowing as a feminist rhetorical inquiry, we might explore if other prescriptive texts regarding women’s domestic labor—from community cookbooks to twentieth-century radio shows and videos on social media—simultaneously promote and subvert time-space compression by slowing down cooking through sensory instructions and crafting memories. Already taking up the work of embodiment and cooking, literatures of food scholar Jennifer Cognard-Black says a recipe is “a synthesis of collective memories from a community of cooks who share and extend these memories with their readership” (32). Although Ray’s show minimizes the labor and duty of cooking, her cooking shows also craft memories with their viewers, like the ones I shared with my mom. I am transported to my mom’s kitchen whenever I hear Rachael’s voice, and it is the collective memories of viewers that I invite feminist rhetoricians to continue exploring.  


[1] I refer to Rachael Ray by her last name when analyzing and her first name when sharing cooking stories to signal both my relationship with Ray as a culinary persona and how she uses storytelling and humor to craft a connection to viewers. 

[2]Ray hosted 30-Minute Meals for thirty seasons and had numerous shows throughout the years. Her talk show, the Rachael Ray Show, first aired in 2006. After seventeen seasons of national syndication, she made her last bowl of on-air pasta on May 25, 2023.  

[3]Thanks to my husband Sam who shares the labor of meal planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. 

[4] Different streaming platforms (e.g., Discovery+, Sling, Amazon Prime, etc.) provide conflicting episode numbering; therefore, I refer to episodes by their title, use timestamps, and provide URLs for The Roku Channel, which does not have commercials

[5]The excluded episodes include cooking for Thanksgiving or with Thanksgiving-inspired flavors (“Thank Me Later” and “Gobble It Up”), Halloween (“Friday Night”), having friends over to watch sports (“30 Minutes to Victory”), a general “spread” for entertaining (“Munch and Mingle”), cooking seafood during the holidays (“Holiday at Sea”), and hosting on New Year’s Eve (“Casual New Year’s Eve”). 

[6]The dishes in these episodes use an exorbitant amount of cheese and meat, making it difficult to substitute ingredients to accommodate my dietary restrictions. 

[7]The recipe suggests serving the scampi with “crusty bread”; because I make sourdough most weekends, this item is something I generally have on hand (180). I did not include the time I spent making the bread as part of the dinner’s timing.  

[8]Flay’s first Food Network show, Grillin’ & Chillin’, began airing in 1996, and he has been a constant presence at the network ever since. 

[9]“Fettuccini” is more commonly spelled “fettuccine.” I use fettuccini in this article because this is the spelling Ray uses. 

Works Cited 

Cognard-Black, Jennifer. “The Embodied Rhetoric of Recipes.” Food, Feminisms, Rhetorics, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite, Southern Illinois UP, 2017, pp. 30–47. 

“Coldie but a Goodie.” 30-Minute Meals, season 19, episode 2, 5 Feb. 2022, The Roku Channel, therokuchannel.roku.com/watch/c08a03b7a2c456cfafb5d2eaa507665b.  

Collins, Kathleen. Watching What We Eat: The Evolution of Television Cooking Shows. Continuum, 2009. 

Diamond, Kerry. Rachael Ray Has a Lot on Her Plate. 231, cherrybombe.com/radio-cherry-bombe/rachael-ray-has-a-lot-on-her-plate.  

“Dinner in Florence.” 30-Minute Meals, season 19, episode 25, 5 Feb. 2022, The Roku Channel, therokuchannel.roku.com/watch/3d4adf22f77651d0abec11573d5e5556.  

Elias, Megan J. Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture. U of Pennsylvania P, 2017. 

Enoch, Jessica. Domestic Occupations: Spatial Rhetorics and Women’s Work. Southern Illinois UP, 2019. 

Flay, Bobby. “About.” Bobby Flay. bobbyflay.com/about.  

Hahner, Leslie A. “Working Girls and the Temporality of Efficiency.” Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 95, no. 3, Aug. 2009, pp. 289–310, doi.org/10.1080/00335630903140648. 

“Half Baked.” 30-Minute Meals, season 19, episode 2, 5 Feb. 2022, The Roku Channel, therokuchannel.roku.com/watch/9cceafb26c745d1b9e1c506c8ee69e3e.  

Hallenbeck, Sarah, and Michelle Smith. “Mapping Topoi in the Rhetorical Gendering of Work.” Peitho, vol. 17, no. 2, 2015, pp. 200–25. cfshrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/17  

Inness, Sherrie A. Dinner Roles: American Women and Culinary Culture. U of Iowa City, 2001. 

—. Secret Ingredients: Race, Gender, and Class at the Dinner Table. 1st ed, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. 

Jack, Jordynn. “Chronotopes: Forms of Time in Rhetorical Argument.” National Council of Teachers of English, vol. 69, no. 1, 2006, pp. 52–73. 

Matwick, Kelsi, and Keri Matwick. Food Discourse of Celebrity Chefs of Food Network. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019. 

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