In Defense of Jane Brody. (food, week of 11.11.13)

Large turnips

Poor Jane Brody.  First there was her personal high cholesterol problem that just got worse, publicly, the more fervently she clung to her own low-fat diet advice.  Then, after a few quiet years, came her article debunking food myths which landed her in the Huffington Post hot seat, skewered by Kristin Wartman for gross misstatements and inaccuracies.  Last month Brody wrote about “Commuting’s Hidden Cost,” touting the health benefits of walkable communities like hers.  As a number of critical bloggers have pointed out, Brody lives in a $2.85 million Park Slope brownstone.  I suspect her walk to the grocery is different from the one between … oh, never mind.

I have a sentimental spot for Jane Brody, despite how unlikeable she may be.  Jane Brody’s Good Food Book was one of the first cookbooks I bought for myself.  I was living in an on-campus triplex in Dedham, MA where I taught photography and art at Noble & Greenough School.  I shared the apartment with two other young teachers, Laura and Mary Campbell.  Note:  Mary Campbell, both words together and without hyphen, is her given name.  Mary Campbell. Mary Howard. Mary Nell. Mary Abbay.  If you lived here, you’d understand.

Laura was from Cleveland and liked to run.  Mary Campbell was from Atlanta, and like me she liked to cook.  And eat.  (We also ran.  A little bit.  Not too often.  Just so we could eat more.)  Mary Campbell helped me with my catering business when I got a big job.  We once prepared a dinner in Newton for an old spinster art collector whose name I wish I could remember.  As we were putting away dishes at the end of the night we noticed the woman had a Modigliani, unframed, sitting on an easel in her keeping room, and we wished we’d done more eavesdropping during dinner.

As spring weather and strappy sundresses drew close that year, Mary Campbell and I decided we should improve our diets and reduce our rear ends.  The hot book of the moment was, yes you guessed it, Jane Brody’s Good Food Book.  I think we hot-footed it into town to buy our copies, as Massachusetts boarding school towns and Park Slope are equally walkable communities.

For Easter brunch that year we made Cranberry-Nut Turnovers (p. 607 – couldn’t find it online), and the recipe quickly became a favorite.  It was simple (at least for two Southern girls trained from birth to cook), delicious and looked pretty on a plate.

I’ve had the Good Food Book for almost 25 years now.  It has traveled with me from place to place without ever having been reopened or used.  For the past eight years it has rested at the top corner of the bookshelves, nestled next to the still-boxed Book of Common Prayer I received at confirmation.  Tuesday, as I was making room for some new cookbook acquisitions (more about those next week), I pulled out old Jane’s tome, pages darkened and crispy, to give it a fresh look.

After reminiscing over the cranberry turnovers, I flipped to the beginning of the book expecting to laugh at the folly of pasta, potatoes and rice – Living the High Carbohydrate Way.  Brody’s advice was surprisingly high whole food, low sugar.  Yes, there’s an entire chapter devoted to potatoes.  But there are also individual chapters devoted each to whole grains, sprouts, nuts and seeds, vegetables and fruits. And there are plenty of recipes to assist in choosing good whole foods instead of processed.

Do I think Jane Brody is smug, judgmental and out of touch with many current realities?  Well, yes.  And her brand of low fat mandate is just dead wrong.  Poor Jane.  But I have to wonder: perhaps if she’d had a better interpreter (or listened to one), might she have thought to write, back in the mid-1980s, “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”

Happy week.  And thank you, veterans. thank you.

menu and grocery list 11.11.13


Week of November 11| 2013

Red cabbage

Farm PlateRoasted potatoes | Wilted Winter Greens | Mustard Glazed Red Cabbage

It’s cold, and cold calls for comfort food.  There are plenty of fresh winter greens (escarole, radicchio, chard) available right now.  Try them in Tyler Florence’s warm wilted winter greens for something different.  Serve with roasted potatoes (quarter, toss in oil, salt & pepper, and roast at 375 for 20-25 minutes) and The Splendid Table’s Mustard Glazed Red Cabbage.

fresh ginger

Lamb Curry | Jasmine RiceIf you’re in the Memphis area, Renaissance Farms has great lamb and mutton – and the farmers are just so darned nice.  I’m going to try a new recipe for lamb curry and hope for the best (looks pretty reliable).  Will serve with jasmine rice and might (no promises) make some naan if I can get my act together and get a batch of basic dough into the refrigerator this weekend.

Jo's carrots

Chicken Pot PieAt the True Vine Farms CSA potluck dinner last week, one of the guests made chicken pot pie.  “I love chicken pot pie!” I heard all my people exclaim in unison.  It was indeed delicious – enough so that I’ll make it this week.  I like Ina Garten’s recipe, but it’s not quick for a weeknight.  One trick is to poach (or prepare in a slow cooker) some chicken breasts in advance.  If I were really a smart home cook, I’d probably poach five pounds of chicken and put it in my freezer for when I need it….

drunken woman, frizzy head

Broiled Red Snapper | Parslied Potatoes | Green SaladFresh red snapper doesn’t need fancy preparation, although there are plenty of highly flavored recipes online if that’s what you’re looking for.  I usually broil it, similar to this recipe from Terri’s Kitchen.  Will serve with equally simple parslied potatoes and a green salad.

flowers make the meal complete

Creamy Polenta with Mushroom RagoutOk, on the night we have this dinner (recipe from Food & Wine, although Deborah Madison has good recipes in both Greens and The Savory Way, if you have either of those books).   I’ll bend my “eat three bites and if you don’t like it you may have a peanut butter sandwich” rule and have some Ian’s chicken (or fish) nuggets waiting in the oven.  My children do not like mushrooms, Sam I Am, and that’s that.  Bernard and I love them, however, and grown ups need good food, too.


  1. I’m glad the demonization of all fats is going by the wayside (I just wish the all carbohydrates baby wasn’t getting tossed with the simple sugars bathwater). One of the things I notice in Italy–everything includes lots of dairy and olive oil by the boatload, and there are carbs in most every meal, but people are way skinnier. Why? They walk a lot more, they control portions, and fats help you feel full sooner.


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