You Can Trust a Skinny Cook, by Allison Fishman (Wiley, 2011), is a cookbook that presupposes a wariness of cooks who don’t bear evidence of food consumption on their hips, and reassures readers right from the get go that it’s compatible to be a trim cook and love food.
I have to admit that watching the full-figured Nigella Lawson enthusiastically diving into her homemade, luscious cakes and savories is, to me at least (and probably many men out there), more palatable, and offers more food cred, than watching the wispily built, say, Sandra Lee at the same endeavor (with apologies to Lee who seems perfectly nice). This probably boils down to a disbelief that Lee, or other flesh-challenged chefs, do indeed consume more than a teaspoon of their creations. And a “go for it” attitude towards Lawson for her unashamed enjoyment of food and for being a role model for women who aren’t built for androgynously cut low-slung jeans.
You can be curvy and love food. But, you can also trust a skinny cook, says the effervescent and likeable Allison Fishman, who recently moved to Montclair and will be at Watchung Booksellers on Saturday, April 30 from 1:00 to 2:00pm, to sign copies of her new book.
Fishman, 39, host of Cook Yourself Thin, contributor to Cooking Light and owner of The Wooden Spoon Cooking School, talked to Baristanet about her inspiration, about food and health, and her move to our town.
What inspired the title of your book? Do you consider being skinny a virtue?
I was on a TV show called Cook Yourself Thin, which was a best-selling book in 2009, and the message of taking responsibility for one’s health was obviously resonating. When I wrote this book (You Can Trust a Skinny Cook), my editor wanted me to keep the message about skinny and thin, but the tone of the book is light-hearted, as is the whole caveat about being skinny. It’s more about being your best you and version of you, not about being scrawny and modelesque. People have said it’s the first cookbook that makes them laugh.
Is this your first book?
Cook Yourself Thin had a lot of my recipes in it, but yes, this is the first book that I’m authoring.
Why did you move to Montclair from Brooklyn, and what do you think of it so far?
I moved on December 4th. I had just got engaged and my fiance lives here with my stepdaughter who is 9 and goes to Bradford school. I made up for my last 20 years of never shoveling in my first few months here! It was a long winter, and everyone keeps saying, trust us, it will be warm and beautiful. And it really is.
I have been amazed with the talent of the local cooks. At Bradford’s bake sale, for example, they sell stews and dumplings, along with baked stuff. I’ve been inspired by all the home cooking I’ve seen.
When was your book released and what’s happening Saturday at Watchung Booksellers?
The book was released April 12th. On Saturday, I’m signing copies and there will be tastings too – of lemon curd tartlets, parmesan twists, and, depending on the weather, either gazpacho and chilled cucumber soup or gumbo.
Your favorite recipe?
I love that gumbo, and there are three salmon recipes in my book, the simplest of which involves a marinade of mayonnaise and mustard – done on the grill, it’s just beautiful. It’s important to love the food that loves you back, and gratifying if, as a mom or cook, your child is squealing in excitement for chicken or salmon.
Do you eat dessert?
(Laughs) Nothing goes uneaten, but I would pay more for a smaller slice of something. People know that you want something sweet, but you don’t need an enormous amount of sweet. I like reasonable portions. Gimme a size that I can feel good about!
What’s your husband’s, and stepdaughter’s, favorite recipe of yours?
Aaron’s favorite is the linguine vongole with my arugula salad. My stepdaughter loves my clam chowder.
How did the idea for this book come about? Was there a need for healthy eating?
I had a corporate job for 10 years, and was good at that, but traveled and ate out a lot and I put on weight. I’d cook bad-tasting diet food or go to restaurants and eat tasty fattening food. This was in the late ’90s. Food lovers, it seemed, couldn’t have healthy food with flavor, so I went to culinary school (six month course) and worked at Jean Georges in Manhattan. The more I cooked and ate, the more weight I lost. Now I’ve learnt good cooking techniques, I don’t have to think about trying to lose weight.
I provide caloric information in my book, but in my opinion, if you’re cooking for yourself, you’re going to be experimenting with fish, and chicken and vegetables and if you fill half your plate with vegetables, the weight naturally comes off.
I was always heavy. I was puffy at puberty and after that, ran track and so on, but was always a little cushioned. But I ate Doritos and chips and had salt and preservatives coursing through my body. My mother cooked a beautiful dinner every night but if I ate Doritos, no amount of her cooking would make me healthy. Now I’m leaner, healthier, stronger.
Are you big on exercise?
Yes. For health and fitness, you have to exercise – go walk, get on your bike with your kids. I like the gym but it’s not necessary. You have to find what works for you.
What’s your gym routine?
I love lifting weights and I love doing yoga. I go (online) to yogatoday.com, which has hundreds of 1 hour routines, and I pick one. It’s liberating that the solution to being healthy is fun and easy.
What did you lunch on today?
I had leftovers from the night before. Grilled asparagus, eggplant and zucchini, with lemon-rosemary grilled chicken. There was also some of the grilled mayo-mustard salmon from last night.