When readers praise Philly novelist Jennifer Weiner for writing authentic heroines—think women with flaws and quirks, who don’t necessarily wear a size 2—she’ll be the first one to tell you she writes what she knows. “People say: ‘You’re so real. How do you stay grounded?’ I’m like, I have a kid who still needs help wiping sometimes,” she says with a chuckle.
The best-selling author, former Inquirer reporter and mom of two (Lucy, 11, and Phoebe, 6), whose latest novel, All Fall Down, is on shelves now, talked to dash about raising healthy eaters, family clamming outings on Cape Cod, and her secret to the perfect roast chicken.
DASH: What’s your favorite weeknight meal? What about on the weekends?
JENNIFER WEINER: I love cooking with my daughters. Phoebe loves what she calls my “Mommy Chicken.” We set up an assembly line: They dip it in the eggs, then the seasoned bread crumbs, and put it on the pan to bake. On Sundays, we’ll read the paper and pull out a recipe, or go to the local farmers’ market and make something inspired by some ingredient. I’m not fanatical about being a locavore, but I like them to have a sense of where their food comes from, and I like to cook as much as possible.
Do you watch cooking shows on TV?
We like Chopped. They’re so matter-of-fact about diversity; last year there was a trans[gender] contestant. That’s the way I try to present the world to my daughters, as full of different people. And they love watching. They’ll be like, “What flavor profile is this?” It’s the funniest thing.
Who are your dream dinner party guests?
My family! I’d have my mom and her partner, my brothers, my sister and their kids, and my friend who’s a food critic at the Philly Inquirer. He’s an amazing cook. Every summer he comes to visit us in Cape Cod. We go fishing for stripers or bluefish, or go clamming, and he’ll cook. He made this paella one year that I’m still thinking about! I’d invite them all over and we’d have a feast.
What’s your signature dish?
My roast chicken—that’s my go-to. You need a good chicken, a kosher one if you can. I use a lot of crushed garlic, thyme or rosemary, and lemon under the skin with some butter. And then you put carrots, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes in the pan, which roast nicely in the drippings. It’s such an easy, one-dish meal.