Love the Real Housewives But Not Bethenny's Cookies

I have mixed feelings about reality TV. I’ve never watched Survivor, American Idol or The Amazing Race. I just don’t care about that kind of competition, plus, Ryan Seacrest reminds me of Kermit the Frog and I stopped watching Sesame Street in 1970. I am, however, a sucker for anything that smacks of a life change. I cry every time I happen to catch even five minutes of Extreme Makeover Home Edition, the Biggest Loser, or its new spin-off, Losing it with Jillian. Between sniffles, I actually find myself saying things like “you are SO brave! You can do it!” and holding my breath when Ty yells, “move that bus!” I don’t really judge myself for this kind of TV viewing because it only happens accidentally, when I stumble upon one of the "programs" (as my grandmother would say) and my motives for watching are supportive and positive.
Unfortunately, there is a category of reality programming which does not bring out the best in my character: the train wreck from which you cannot look away. Certainly that was the case with the genre’s most tragic example of a few years ago: Fox’s The Swan. Basically it took ugly ducklings and turned them into….you know the rest. Each episode focused on two of the contestants who endured extreme dieting, plastic surgery from head to toe, new Da Vinci tooth veneers, colored hair extensions and life-coaching. They couldn’t look at a mirror during the three months (condensed for us into one episode) of the makeover and then in the last few minutes of the show saw themselves for the first time in the big reveal. Then each one struggled to speak, because she had to take the shape of her new mouth into consideration, as she cried and talked about her life-changing “journey” all while her baby-Daddy and handful of kids came out from behind a curtain for a gasp and a wet group hug. And that wasn’t all. There was a weekly winner who would later return to compete in The Swan pageant finale hoping to be crowned “The Swan.” Just writing about it has made me feel like I ate too much really bad candy (like those waxy Palmer Easter eggs). Thank goodness it was canceled and I was able to reclaim some dignity.
That is until I succumbed to the next guilty pleasure, the equally train-wrecky Real Housewives of New York City on Bravo. I can’t get enough. You’d think I’d know better—know that all of the “drama” is created in the editing room, that the definition of a "housewife" is loose at best, and that most of these women are people I would hope never to know. In case you are unfamiliar with the set-up the Housewives are a group of women who may or may not have previously known each other before the show began. In New York (there’s also Atlanta, Orange County, New Jersey and the forthcoming DC and Beverly Hills) we have Jill, Alex, Ramona, the Countess (aka LuAnn), Bethenny, Kelly, and now Sonya (aka the New One We Don’t Care About).
Basically we just follow them in their daily lives. Some work, some don’t, some are catty, some are dumb, some are nice, some are boring, and one is made to seem certifiably delusional. The back biting, the griping, the over-privilege never ceases to stun and amaze and I have gotten completely sucked in.

This season got particularly ugly with the demise of what seemed like a beautiful friendship. Bethenny is the (until recently) single Housewife, natural foods chef and founder of the Skinny Girl margarita mix. Haven’t heard of it? Oh, just watch the show for two seconds and the product placement will be forced down your throat like the requisite shot of tequila.
Jill Zarin, her former BFF, is the co-author, with her mother and sister, of Secrets of a Jewish Mother. Haven’t bought your copy yet? Don’t tell Jill. Last year she was the one who seemed to have a heart. This year she revealed what seems to be her true self; she is a mean girl who decides not to be mean to you when you need her and then the claws come out when you don’t. You know the type.
So these two break-up over B. not being there for J. when J.’s husband was ill and B. claiming she didn’t know how sick he really was etc., etc. I’m exhausted just relaying their petty tale. In the meantime, the Countess was dumped by the Count, dated several seemingly gay men, took up a singing career, (if you consider singing to be talking with the aid of Autotune), and released the hit CD “Money Can’t Buy You Class.” Haven’t heard it? Just watch the show for another two seconds and she’ll be happy to hum a few bars. Or click here and watch her sing at her release party!
Ramona “renewed” herself by getting a new hair cut (the fast track to a spiritual awakening, of course) and marrying her husband again even though they were only celebrating their 17th anniversary and Kelly, the nut, thought that was really "weird" and a "random" year of marriage to be noting. Alex did nothing but behave like a normal friend to Bethenny during trying times, organize the world’s lamest fashion show in Brooklyn, have an anxiety attack during a pedicure, and stay married to her creepy but actually kind of nice husband. They have a book out about parenting, in case you're expecting.
Meanwhile Kelly, former model, editor, and ex-wife of much older “legendary” photographer, Gilles Bensimon, had some kind of meltdown during Ramona’s bachelorette weekend on St. John. While twirling her hair, shoving jelly beans in her face, and muttering “satchels of gold,” (huh? What does that even mean?) Kells flipped out over the other “girls” bullying her (they weren’t) while she attacked Bethenny, her historical nemesis, and accused her of being a cook, NOT a chef because NONE of Kelly's friends in the Hamptons had EVER used her. Plus she called her a “ho-bag” (a word choice the Countess took major issue with) because Bethenny had had a few one night stands in her past. I’d be more sympathetic to Kelly’s questionable mental health if I didn't find her to be both so full or herself and full of it. You know who she is? She’s one of those high-school "friends" who, when the rest of her group agrees to dress as witches for Halloween, shows up in the sexy cat costume. You know that girl. And with a toss of the head and a giggle (while she winks at the football player eyeing her slutty outfit) feigns ignorance with, “OMG wait, we were all supposed to be witches? Oohhhh, I didn’t realize!”
I won’t talk about Sonya because I have no interest in her although she did manage to get herself arrested, off-camera, for drunk driving right in time for the airing of the show’s season finale.

Anyway, all of this ridiculousness ended with the girls making nice (enough) so they could celebrate Ramona and her husband Mario at the Pierre where Jill noted there wasn’t any food for the hour they had to wait for the ceremony to begin and if you’re going to make her wait that long you’d better feed her. So, through fake toothed smiles and crocodile tears, the third season came to an end.
But here’s the thing. As unseemly, tacky, mean-spirited, and low brow (despite how high brow the ladies mistakenly think they are) as this show can stoop, smart, savvy, well-educated women of all ages tune in week after week—often behind the backs of their eye rolling husbands. Everyone I know watches it. What is it that has us all addicted and unable to avert our eyes from the cooked up craziness? Schadenfreude? There but for the grace of God go I? I don’t know. What I do know is that I ended the season loving Bethenny and my DVR is going to be very busy tonight. First we have what is sure to be the must-see catfight of the spring on The Real Housewives of New York City Reunion. Then it’s the premiere of Bethenny’s own show, Bethenny’s Getting Married?.
So, I thought in preparation/celebration of tonight's Bethenny-fest I'd make a recipe to snack on from (where else?) her own The Skinnygirl Dish cookbook. This proved to be a very bad idea. Bethenny purports to be a natural foods chef, but what I didn't know was that by "natural," she meant "inedible." As directed, the dough was so dry that I had to roll it in order to get the cookies to hold any kind of a remotely round shape. But that was the least of the problems; they had a horrible, creepy taste that may have been from the combo of fake butter/banana/whole wheat flour and they were tooth rottingly sweet. I figured I had nothing to lose by adding the rest of the banana (she only calls for 1/2) to the remaining batter and at least then they were spoonable, cookie looking and had a nice texture when baked. But still, way too sweet and now way too banana-y. At this point I was so annoyed that I'd wasted a cup of good chocolate chips (the only redeeming ingredient in the mix) that I gave up.

My bad Bethenny baking experience to one side, "Bravo" to Bravo for capitalizing on this funny, tart-tongued, quick and engaging cook? chef? mixologist? brand? Without having watched a single episode I already know I’m going to be hooked on her show. Someone please help me.
For what it's worth, here's the recipe:

Love the Real Housewives but Not Bethenny's Cookies
adapted from The Skinnygirl Dish by Bethenny Frankel, 2009
1/2 cup non dairy butter, softened
1 1/2 cups raw sugar
1 banana, mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, banana, and vanilla extract with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well blended.
Stir in the chocolate chips and cranberries. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or just until set. Cool slightly on the baking sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
Yield: 6 1/2 dozen creepy tasting cookies


liza said...

LOVE this blog.....almost as much as I love the hOusewives...even more...since you "get them" perfectly. I think when season 4 starts you should write a weekly recap/overview?? DO IT!

Joseph St. Cyr said...

What a project this recap was! So thankful since I missed the finale (must see now). Love that the cookies suck. Kelly is truly both dumb as a post and evil but Bethany I could probably handle since what you see is you get what you get.

Anonymous said...

As always Miranda, you got it spot on. Agree with thefirst comment that you should review weekly. Mtc