Giada De Laurentiis: 'Women tell me I am their husbands' hall pass'

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Giada De Laurentiis

Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis has been quiet for awhile. A high-profile divorce left the photogenic TV chef reevaluating her life. She reemerges Tuesday with Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count . . . Without Stressing Out (Pam Krauss Books), her eighth cookbook.

De Laurentiis will hit the Merriam Theater on Friday, Nov. 6 as part of her book tour. She chatted with The Inquirer about how her divorce affected her life and what it's like to have such a large male fan base.

You're on your eighth cookbook. Why another one?

I don't know. Just kidding, I love to do that!

My cookbooks are like my children. They're all independent and live on their own. My cookbooks tell a story and this one tells more of a story than any other. This last year has been one of change for me. I've gone back and thought, 'Do I really love to cook?' I stopped the rat race and shut out the noise.

But the time I spent in the kitchen is so soothing and grounding, it's a place where I can hone my skills and share my skills with my daughter and think about who I am.

In the introduction to the book, you're honest about your divorce and the tough time you were going through. Why put it all out there?

Trust me; it took some time to get there. I realized that writing my cookbook it had to have a purpose. I didn't just want to put recipes in a book. Who needs another one? I went through a personally traumatic time. I had to do some healing. I had to look at the future as a bright light, rather than a dark dungeon.

In writing this book, I've noticed how many people in my life have inspired me to be better. I wanted to tell people why I wrote this book. If you're a celebrity, you want to keep it all to yourself, but if someone reads that introduction, and it helps them out, and makes them smile for a second, that's my job. I thought it was time to talk and be honest, and I was ready for it.

There's a real premium put on practicality in this book.

That's real life. Not many people have the ability to spend the time in the kitchen to create these elaborate meals. This is my true life, and that's what this book is. These recipes have to be as simple as possible. It's not realistic to spend hours in the kitchen anymore.

When you become a single mom, you have less help and less time. The cooking has to happen even faster.

There are 200 recipes in this book, but I'm sure there are some left on the cutting-room floor. What is your favorite recipe you just didn't see a place for?

Sartu di riso. It's basically a giant rice cake that you make in a Bundt pan with layers. There's a meat sauce in the middle, there's cheese. You make risotto, but not the traditional way, you cook it in the water and you bake it. I wanted to put it in the book, but after debating back and forth, I had to cut it. It made no sense. Some day, if I do a straight Italy book, it will make it, but I couldn't figure out a way to explain it to people. I don't want to lose people. Once you lose people, it's really hard to get them back.

You have quite the male fan base. Do you embrace it or do you ever feel objectified?

I'll have women tell me that I am their husbands' hall pass [the celebrity you're given permission to cheat on your spouse with]. It makes me blush every time and I don't know how to react. I don't know if I should say I'm honored or I should run away.

On the other hand, I'm so happy that women feel like they can say that to me because sometimes women can be super jealous. But maybe it brings husbands and wives closer together. A lot of women love watching cooking shows, but a lot of men won't sit through them. If I get a family to sit down together, if I get men and women to sit and watch a cooking show together, then I embrace it.

Author Appearance: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6 at the Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St. Tickets: $35-135. Information: 215-893-1999 or www.kimmelcenter.org.