If I haven’t already mentioned it, one of my favorite books is The Skinny: How to Fit Into Your Little Black Dress Forever by Melissa Clark and Robin Aronson. And I am SO thrilled and honored to announce that I got to interview the beautiful and lovely Robin for my MEET series. In addition to writing the sassy, cute, and witty book on how to shed some pounds while still enjoying your favorite foods, Robin also co-wrote a pregnancy book called The Whole Pregnancy Handbook: A Guide to The Wise Use of Conventional and Alternative Medicine Before, During and After Pregnancy (Gotham 2005) and writes a blog called Local Or Express so check them all out!
Hi Robin. So you co-wrote The Skinny with your good friend, Melissa Clark. What are some of the rules of the book that you still live by? – I still pretty much eat the way we describe/suggest eating in The Skinny. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables; at holiday meals I hit the veggie sides hard. I balance my meals, so if I have something bready for breakfast I’ll have a salad for lunch. If I know lasagna’s for dinner, I have yogurt for breakfast, etc. I snack on tea in the afternoon (that’s always been very helpful for me) and for a midday sweet I have a little dark chocolate instead of a baked something or another. Lately I’ve been less attentive to portion size and I’ve been finishing every last bit of dessert, even after the flavor sensation has ended and even if I don’t love it. I’m thinking I need to readjust a little on those fronts.
What’s a typical day’s worth of food for you? – I’ll have either a half a bagel or some cereal (hot or cold with soymilk) for breakfast. If I get hungry midmorning I sometimes have a small cup of Ronnybrook Farm drinkable yogurt. Lunch at home might be an avocado or a bowl of soup, along with a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts and a few pieces of dark chocolate. Tea mid-afternoon (it’s often green tea). I really struggle with snacking around 5 when I’m making dinner for my kids. (who doesn’t?) If there are pita chips and hummus in the house, fuggedabout it, so I try not to keep them in the house. Dinner might be eggs and a salad or soup and salad or tofu or chicken or chorizo with peas and roasted peppers. Afterwards I have fruit and then a little later some herb tea and a cookie or something else sweet. I try to stick to one cookie at night, it’s not that hard by now, but if I’m watching TV, I knit—because bored hands nosh!
What do you do for exercise? Was working out an integral part of getting back into pre-baby shape? – Truthfully, exercise had nothing to do with losing the last ten pounds of baby weight but it does have a lot to do with me getting back to pre-bay shape. What I mean is when I started eating “on The Skinny” I lost all the baby weight and then some. So I was thin, but I wasn’t exercising regularly and I wasn’t in great shape. Right before I got pregnant, though, I was in great shape. I was heavier, but my body felt better and stronger. Then, about a year ago, when I turned 40 and my kids were four, I started running because the nurse practitioner I see told me I was at risk for osteoporosis and I needed to do weight bearing exercise. So, it’s not for love of running but fear of falling that I now run for thirty minutes (give or take) three days a week. But, secretly, once I’m out running I sometimes enjoy it, and I’m always glad to have done it and I feel much stronger and better than I did at my thinnest.
What are some of your favorite restaurants and the dishes you order from them? – Let’s see: I love the chile rellenos from the Mexican Taqueria around the corner from us. I think about lunch at The Pearl Oyster Bar in the West Village all the time (Caesar salad and oysters OR no salad but the oyster po boy) but I haven’t been there for two years. At Keft on the Upper West Side they serve a great sheep dumpling and sausage dish. And then there are the tempura green beans at The Red Cat. Yum!
Do you cook much? If so, what are some of your favorite recipes and cookbooks you always turn to? – I cook a lot and often from Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berley and Melissa (Clark). There’s a lentil soup with lemon and spinach in there that’s a real go-to for me. I also like to use The Art of Simple Cooking by Alice Waters, especially for stews, and Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen. (I’m not a vegetarian but I try to limit how much and how often we eat meat.) I like her spicy chickpea soup and spinach, corn and quinoa chowder. For baking, I’ve got to say, Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook has done right by me. I regularly make the recipes from Melissa’s Good Appetite column in the New York Times: Lentil soup (I like soup); ratatouille pot pie with sausage and cornmeal biscuits (I’ve made it with tofu that’s been gently fried, too and it’s great); olive oil granola; I could go on. I just got the Gourmet Today cookbook, and I expect I’ll use it pretty regularly for a while.
What are three things on your current wish list? – I’m extremely anxious about climate change so I’d have to be a big downer blowhard and say: I wish that plastic bottles and cars would go away to be replaced by bicycles and public transportation. I wish that I had more counter space and room for a composting bin. I wish that farmers and governments would stop clear-cutting rainforests in Brazil and South East Asia. Honorable mention: I wish I could get a ring or two from Heike Grebenstein’s collection. Maybe a pair of earrings, too. She uses recycled gold!
If you could throw your fantasy dream dinner party, where would it be, who would you invite and what would you serve? – This kind of question makes me extremely anxious! Also, at one of the best dinner parties I ever threw I served one of my worst meals ever. (It was overcooked drunken pork loin from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking; I’d never made pork before and didn’t realize I should have gotten the shoulder!) And I also think that big, famous people don’t necessarily make for a great dinner party. That said, let’s see. My husband (does that go without saying?) Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft; George Eliot and her companion George Lewes (I’m so curious to see how they were together, although we’d be a lot of Jews for them); I would say someone like Edith Wharton or Jane Austen, but I’d be way too anxious about what they thought of me to enjoy myself (With Eliot at least I’d know I’d have some sympathy.); and my friends Natalie and Peter, who first introduced me to the magic of dinner parties when we were all in graduate schools together and really know how to make a table work.
Now you need location and food. Let’s see: If I could host a dinner party anywhere, it might be on the island of Corsica where I went with my family the summer I was seven. It was magic and I’ve never been back. And if we were on Corsica I’d have to serve a big soppy delicious not overcooked fish stew with fresh crusty bread, garlicky mayonnaise, a big bowl of bitter green salad, a stinky cheese course, and fresh fruit and little perfect cookies and chocolates. (I think my parents had a dinner party like that when we were there and I don’t think I’ve quite gotten over not being allowed to attend. The pictures look fantastic. It was the seventies and my mom was even in a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress.)