February 28, 2013

BOOKS: Bobby Deen takes aim at mom's recipes

BY BILL DALEY

BY BILL DALEY

Chicago Tribune (MCT)

Paula Deen is probably used to being pummeled by the food police about her cooking, but you've got to wonder what she really feels about son Bobby Deen's new book, "From Mama's Table to Mine" (Ballantine, $22), written with Melissa Clark.

The love taps begin with the book's subtitle: "Everybody's Favorite Comfort Foods at 350 Calories or Less" -- and then there's his introductory admission: "I love my Mama's food, it truly is the best-tasting food on this planet. But, let's face it. I can't eat her rich food every day of my life."

The son, host of Cooking Channel's "Not My Mama's Meals," takes pains to show readers that his recipes are as tasty as those made by "Mama," to whom the book is fondly dedicated, but without the fat and calories. He offers a "before" and "after" snapshot for each recipe. The differences on paper can be striking -- 185 calories and 15 grams in the "before" creamed spinach and 93 calories and 2.5 grams of fat in the "after," for example. I'm assuming many of the before recipes are based on Mama's, though it's not always clear. I just wish there was a way to offer both versions side by side for comparison.

Bobby Deen's life has a before and after as well. Twenty-five pounds overweight, he looked and felt 10 years older before embarking on a healthier lifestyle under the tutelage of a fitness coach. The book offers a number of tools for eating better, from a list of "Bobby's Fantastic Fourteen" foods that he works into his diet to a guide for stocking one's kitchen with healthy foods to five sample party menus to stay on the healthy-eating track. Each recipe also comes with a side note, usually on a health or nutrition-related theme.

You know, even mothers have feelings -- and egos. If I were Paula Deen, I don't know whether I'd want to laugh, disown that boy or cry all the way to the bank. Because any publicity is good publicity, especially when it is all in the family. At least there's comfort in knowing Bobby Deen does offer some appealing, and healthier, takes on comfort cooking that would make any mama proud.

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