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Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan says her new release is her 'Connecticut book'

Inevitably, Dorie Greenspan gets the question. 

How is it possible that the acclaimed gastronome guru with a reputation for creating fabulous sweet treats, author of 13 cookbooks, winner of five James Beard Awards and two Cookbook of the Year Awards from the International Association of Culinary Professionals, is so tiny, so petite?

“They ask me every time, ‘How do you stay so thin?’” said Greenspan, in a recent telephone interview in advance of her March 18 appearance at Stonington’s LaGrua Center, where another renowned chef, James Wayman of the Mystic trio of restaurants Oyster Club, Engine Room and Grass & Bone, will sit down for a public conversation with Greenspan.

(Editor's note: After this story went to press, LaGrua announced that the event is being rescheduled for a future date to be determined, due to the coronavirus.)

“I have that same 5 pounds that I’d love to lose, but I am thin and that’s always the question,” said Greenspan.

So how does she do it?

“Bake and release,” she joked, explaining she shares what she makes and practices portion control. Oftentimes, when her recipe tester, Mary Dodd of Madison, sends back revisions, Greenspan explained Dodd will change “serves 8” to “serves 6.”

“I never measure and I eat everything, I don’t deny myself, but I do try to take a reasonable portion,” said Greenspan.

She’s looking forward to talking food with Wayman, whom she’s known since his days as executive chef at the River Tavern in Chester. Greenspan has homes in New York City, Paris and Westbrook, and it was at her Connecticut home where she wrote “Everday Dorie,” her most recent cookbook.

“I think of 'Everyday Dorie' as my Connecticut book, but it took me to the end of the book to realize that,” said Greenspan. “I looked at it and realized it’s not only my Connecticut book but also my Big Y and Stop & Shop book.”

From Greenspan’s Westbrook home, it’s a 20- to 30-minute ride each way to her local grocery stores. As she worked on her book, Greenspan said she realized she had to be prepared and adaptable.

“I had to be more nimble, flexible,” she said. “If I missed an ingredient, rather than get in the car and go to the market, I cooked much more from my pantry and fridge. I was always thinking of ways to add flavor to dishes without having to run out to store or use special ingredients.”

The result, she said, is that “Everyday Dorie” is a more practical, simple cookbook, something she didn’t plan or realize until the book was finished. 

A good cookbook clearly explains the intricacies of every recipe, Greenspan said, when asked what makes her cookbooks so popular.

“My first cookbook editor said, ‘Just remember to help people with taste, texture and technique,’ and all these years later, I still think about that,” she said.

What she looks for in a cookbook is an author who has set up a recipe for success by helping the cook to prepare and plan and, to a degree, “to taste it in my head.” And Greenspan said she likes to give examples of what might go wrong, or worry a cook. 

“I might say, ‘When you add the third egg, don’t worry if the batter looks curdled,’ I imagine myself sitting on the cook’s shoulder,” she said.

Wayman will lead the conversation with Greenspan at LaGrua and said he would like to know more about people and events who have shaped Greenspan’s relationship to food and baking. He’s curious, too, about her connection with France, and how she’s developed the very singular voice of her books.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Greenspan has shared the story of how she nearly burned down her parents’ kitchen at the age of 12 and never cooked again until she married. She was working on her doctorate in gerontology and gave that up to bake cookies in a restaurant basement, a decision she’s been thankful for ever since, even though she was fired by the restaurant.

No doubt, Greenspan is a success today, and in addition to her accolades and 13 cookbooks, she’s the “On Dessert” columnist for The New York Times Magazine.

 

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