Macaroons and Mormon Royalty

First impressions from ep. 1 of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City

You *may* have missed last night’s premiere of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” but I could not miss it for the world, which as we know is growing warmer and less habitable every day. Aside from the jarring upbeat, pre-pandemic mood of episode one, I actually found the cast somewhat sympathetic. How many of them have since contracted COVID in virus-ravaged Utah, I wondered? How were they to know that armpit Botox would be the least uncomfortable medical procedure we’d be subjected to on TV after watching New York’s Gov. Cuomo get a Q-tip shoved up his nasal cavity?

I’ll share some other observations briefly, as well as a recipe for coconut macaroons that turned out to be the perfect pairing for this psychodrama. I know there are more serious things happening in the world right now, so please indulge this moment of escapism.

  • The actual source of the housewives’ wealth is always left intentionally a little vague. Are we honestly to believe a Utah football coach’s salary is enough for a Park City chalet, two personal assistants and unlimited cosmetic surgeries? A Pentecostal preacher sporting runway Valentino? Only Lisa’s prefab McMansion with bare walls seemed the most complementary to her income bracket as a purveyor of bottom shelf tequila. (What’s with the celebrity tequila boom? Need an explainer.)

  • Others have pointed out the show’s liberal use of the phrase “Mormon royalty.” For example, one cast member’s ancestor serving as Brigham Young’s bodyguard makes her akin to Mormon royalty. It seems we will learn as much (read: little) about the Latter Day Saints as we will about Islam from Jen Shah, who starts the episode by shouting, “As-salamu alaykum, bitches!”

  • Lake Effect, the SLC bar, is featured on this episode as a meeting spot. I had an overpriced cocktail and charcuterie board here once or twice, and it’s exactly the type of place that feels purposefully designed as a backdrop for reality TV, with austere industrial high tops and Addams Family grey velvet-tufted booths that beckon you to read your intimate texts very loudly to each other.

  • Do Porsche’s have four-wheel drive? Not the car I would choose to traverse Parley’s Canyon in winter.

  • Standout performances by Brooks, Stuart and drunk friend Sara (clearly auditioning for S2).

  • A cul de sac is the perfect setting to renew your vows in the same way a stripper pole is a nice addition to a bonus room.

  • Jen and Mary, despite hating each other, look great in berets. We should all wear berets more often. Super flattering to all face shapes.

  • Too much casual racism to gloss over, including Heather’s commentary on her attraction to rap music and Black men and Mary calling Jen a hood rat. There is something to be said about the show’s diversity this season, but it’s probably not going to lead anywhere productive. Prepare to cringe.

  • “Hospital smell” is going to be a Halloween costume by next year.

  • Where in the Husband’s Guide to Romance does it say women like coming home to a floor littered with rose petals? I keep seeing this trope in movies and TV but have yet to see a woman genuinely look excited about romping around on some dead flowers. Meredith narrowly avoids self-immolation from the open flame of candles placed on the floor by her son (creepy!) on behalf of the absent husband. That marriage is doomed.

I can’t wait to read the recaps from The Beehive and if you feel you are too good for this trash, please read TV critic Emily Nussbaum’s seminal essay on “Vanderpump Rules,” which really gets to the heart of this genre:

“It’s always easier to condescend to a reality show before you start watching it—and watching it, and watching it. This is true of almost all reality soaps: the pleasure is less in the show than in the bubbly, cathartic, alternately cruel and tender talk that surrounds it, with its Wikipedian rabbit-holes and weirdly therapeutic reunions and after-shows, the fizzy in-jokes of a largely queer and female audience. Watching “Vanderpump” felt less like watching TV than like becoming a sports fan. One minute, the show was a grim slog, a repetitive ritual that threatened to drag on forever, like baseball. The next minute, it was aggressively fun—the kind of thing that makes your heart leap whenever a fight breaks out, like hockey! To enjoy it, you just have to ignore the potential brain damage for the players once the game ends, as with football.” 

Coconut Macaroons with Raspberries

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Makes about 30 golf-ball sized macaroons.

  • 300 grams (10 ounces) sweetened, flaked coconut

  • 50-100 grams unsweetened coconut (I ran out of the sweetened coconut so that’s why I had to use this from my pantry)

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 3 large egg whites

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • pint of rasberries

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line sheet pan with silicone mat or parchment lightly sprayed.

  2. I don’t have a food processor like SK calls for, so I just pulsed the coconut and sugar and salt in batches in my Ninja blender to get it to a finer consistency. Dump blended coconut, sugar and salt in mixing bowl — it’s ok to have some bigger flecks of coconut — and add egg whites and vanilla extract. Mix well until dough is wet and uniform.

  3. Next I put about 3/4 of the raspberries in and smooshed them up really carefully with a fork. Fold the smushed raspberry a few times to get that pink-and-white marble effect. Don’t overstir. If you blend all the way, the dough will be all pink.

  4. Scoop onto pan with tablespoon-sized scoop and bake for about 30 minutes, until coconut starts to turn a little golden. Let cool on counter for 20 minutes before eating.

*Thanks to those who wrote to me after my last entry. I did not intend for it to sound so self-pitying. I know we’re all making the best of a horrible set of circumstances. I do hope the incoming administration is cause for some optimism for eventually beating this pandemic.