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Heartsmart Cooking for Family and Friends

by Bonnie Stern

If for some reason you want or, God forbid, need to know how many milligrams of potassium, carbohydrate fibre, or saturated fat are contained in the num-nums you serve at your next big soirée, Bonnie Stern’s HeartSmart Cooking for Family and Friends is the cookbook for you. But pity your guests.

Bonnie Stern, in contention with Rose Reisman and Anne Lindsay, is, of course, the reigning queen of Canada’s home economists-cum-dietitians-cum-chefs. She has seven cookbooks, a cooking school, and two TV shows.

HeartSmart Cooking for Family and Friends is Stern’s opus on how to entertain without doing damage to your guests. Backed up by quaint Joy of Cooking-style line drawings and advice on such party matters as napkin folding, roast carving, garnishing, and table manners, Stern, with an army of dietitians providing nutritional stats, offers dozens of vitamin and fibre-loaded, low-fat party recipes.

That’s right: low-fat parties.

Not to misrepresent. These are well-crafted recipes. The instructions are clear, the results tasty. But low-fat parties? Isn’t that an oxymoron? How large a party-throwing market exists that cares if asparagus soup has 4 mg of cholesterol, or chicken satay 88 mg of potassium, or that pasta with carmelized onions is an excellent source of folacin? Life is short, a party is an opportunity to play. Party food should be decadent, buttery, sweet, and rich. If Stern’s aim is to be inclusive, well, she’s living up to her name by suggesting all guests should suffer because a few can’t eat cream sauce.

The circle is complete: nutrition control is out of control. Anyone this obsessed with calorie count, fibre intake, and potassium levels, is likely incapable of having, let alone providing, a good time.