Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Recipe for Ridicule

There are a great many cookbooks in my house. There's a ceiling-to-floor set of bookshelves worth of them. Everyone in my family, me, Alice, our children Josh and Hope, is into food and into cooking. Over the course of the years, we've acquired quite the collection. Historical cookbooks, fad diet cookbooks, cookbooks by famous chefs, even novelty items such as the "Star Wars Cookbook."

I won't be adding Tom Brady's new book to the shelf next to its only possible companion volume "The 1987 Patriots' Wives Cookbook," which is real and one of the treasured momentos of my sportswriting career.  There will be no end of fans who'll pony up $200 for his souvenir cookbook, but I'm damned if I'll be one of 'em. What does he take me for?

To be fair to Tom, let me say up front that cookbooks can serve many purposes other than offering practical advice and instruction to the home cook. To take one random example from my shelf, a cookbook by famous chef Thomas Keller is food porn. It's coffee-table book expensive, but that's way less than dinner at his restaurant the French Laundry would be. No one who buys it is even going to try to follow one of its recipes, for lack of the two most vital ingredients of each one -- decades of formal training and a large staff of assistants. But it's fun to read them, look at the pictures, and wander into a daydream of tastebud lust.

By all accounts, Brady's book is basically divided into three parts, a straightforward account of his rigorous dietary habits with recipes attached, detours into nutrition quackery (no tomatoes?), and fierce diatribes against the American food industry. Parts one and three are all to the good. The food industry can always use a swift kick in the ass, as long as the kicker understands the essential futility of the gesture. Assisting others to eat more healthily is a worthy goal, and I'm sure some of Brady's advice is sound. As for part two, we can shrug that off. Throughout American history, there's never been someone who altered the national diet for the better who didn't have some quack in them.

But missionary work and the profit motive are not good partners. I'm sure Brady sincerely wishes everyone ate better as he defines it, but it's hard to spread the good word to the masses at $200 a pop. My suspicion is that the book is a preview of Brady's stated plan to create a network of fitness-related businesses after he retires from football at age 72. Those businesses will not be seeking to convert society as a whole. They'll be top-shelf offerings charging top dollar aimed at the carriage trade. That lets me out right there.

A $50 Tom Brady cookbook would not be out of line. One costing four times as much doesn't make me curious to see one of the secrets of the quarterback's superb fitness, it only generates unworthy smart-ass thoughts.

Thought one: Between Dad's diet and the fact Mom is a supermodel, I'll bet the Brady children always go to a neighbor's house for after-school snacks. They won't rebel as teenagers through clothes, music or substance abuse, they'll sneak out for pizza.

Thought two: The most important element in Tom Brady's continued excellent health are the five dangerously (to themselves) large men in his offensive line, guys who intake around 6000 calories a day.


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