Cooking

I Ate like Oprah for a Week & Here's What Happened

There was a lot less bread than you'd think
All About Oprah's New Cookbook
Photo: Oprah via Facebook

You can't judge a book by its cover, but you can surely assess its quality by the number of chicken recipes inside.

Oprah Winfrey—who, if anything, is surely not known for being stingy—delivers with aplomb in her first cookbook, Food, Health, and Happiness. Chicken is brined and roasted, fried and unfried, smothered and barbecued, to name just a handful of preparations.

Happily, this exciting book release happened to coincide with my personal need to refresh my weekly meal plan, so, naturally, I decided to spend the week cooking like Oprah. I'd heard tell of her "sexy breakfast" and immediately looked forward to mornings when I'd eat that spicy salsa-topped egg scramble, proclaim "I am woman!" and walk out the door. (The salsa is what lends the sex appeal, in case you couldn't tell.)

My staple that week was the Indian-spiced apricot chicken. It was a dream. I ate it cold, speared on a fork, standing at my counter, late at night. I sliced it up for salads. I paired it with eggs. Nothing needed additional spice because of the fragrant pan sauce that dressed up everything it touched. And while I recognize that my second dish, farro with peas, asparagus and pea pesto, screams spring louder than a sheep giving birth, the photo was so verdant and inviting that I threw seasonality to the wind for the sake of a few days' worth of refreshing lunches.


Another favorite was chakalaka, a dish inspired by Oprah's "daughters" at her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. It was just spicy enough, despite omitting the jalapeños, because I have the spice tolerance of a newborn. Oprah suggests it as a condiment for fish or poultry, and I found it worked equally as well as a relish with breakfast or a salad booster for lunch.

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Oprah's book also includes childhood photos, stories from the heart and 19 soup recipes. Shockingly, what it doesn't contain is multitudes of bread. "I love bread" seems to be this carbed-up generation's mantra, yet the only bread recipe you'll find in the book is for naan. Granted, she calls her introduction to garlic naan in India "love at first bite" and gives it no less than six praising adjectives, but this is the woman who once called seven loaves of bread her "favorite birthday gift." The word bread isn't even included in the index.


As far as celebrity cookbooks go, this is one that assuredly won't fall into obscurity once the spotlight fades. Blame it on Oprah's infallible spirit and lasting legacy, but it doesn't take a back seat when it comes to content: The recipes are all simple to follow, easily executed and turn out as promised. Oprah isn't claiming to be the nation's leading culinary authority—she leaves that to the masters (like Southern juggernaut Art Smith and Top Chef's Mei Lin). All the mega celebrity asserts is that she loves food.

On a final note, yes, she's the face of Weight Watchers. And, yes, she includes points information in the book. But you can ignore it completely; I did, and I found it didn't deter from the experience one bit. As she writes in the introduction, "Food is supposed to be about joy, not suffering."

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