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Yolks and Yuks With The Podleski Sisters


Janet and Greta Podleski.

During which of the following world-famous events did the pizza industry report the highest number of deliveries?

a) the final episode of Survivor I

b) Superbowl XXXXVII

c) the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase

d) the opening night of the first Gulf War

This is one of numerous “Pop Quizine” queries that pepper the Polish Podleski sisters’ hugely popular diet cookbooks (the answer is at the end of this blog). Who are the Podleski sisters? If you resided in Canada you wouldn’t have to ask. Janet and Greta hail from St. Thomas, Ontario, and their first collaboration, Looneyspoons:Low-Fat Food Made Fun! (1996), spent 85 weeks on Canada’s national bestseller list. Matter of fact, altogether their books have outsold Harry Potter in the great white north.They’ve got a successful show on Food Network Canada as well.

The sisters’ most recent publication, Eat, Shrink & Be Merry!, is like the rest: a potpourri of cooking and nutrition tips, “funky factoids”, food histories, jokes, puns, illustrations, quotations, quizzes, cartoons, colored photos -- altogether a whirlwind of a book crammed with useful and/or fascinating information about all things culinary. Plus, of course, this being a cookbook, there are hundreds of healthy, uncomplicated, humorously named recipes: Celine Dijon Chicken, Titanic Salad with Iceberg Lettuce, and so forth.

I spoke with Janet and Greta by phone last week.

New Times: Tell us about St. Thomas, Ontario.

Greta: We’re famous for killing Jumbo the elephant from the Barnum & Bailey Circus. That’s what put St. Thomas on the map. There was a bad train accident.

Janet: The population now is 36,000, but it was probably 25,000 when we grew up there. It was great to be from a small town where you kind of get to know everybody.

NT: Just wondering -- did John McCain ever contact either one of you to be his running mate?

G: No, but we would probably be qualified.

J: And Sara Palin actually copied my hairdo.

NT: Have you considered sending a copy of your book to Sarah Palin?

J: We should. I think she’s got a good sense of humor and I really think she would enjoy it -- although I doubt she has much time right now.

NT: How many of the jokes in your book did you steal from Henny Youngman?

G: None. They’re all original, out of our brains.

J: Yeah, right.

G: Jeez, I don’t know. Did you count them?

NT: Haven’t got around to that, no.

J: We have a silly sense of humor. We like to say ‘more giggling leads to less jiggling’. Laughing burns calories.

NT: “Eat less and move more” is your kinder, gentler mantra of “diet and excersise”. As Peggy Lee might say, ‘Is that all there is?’

J: Well that’s basically it, but that sounds bland and boring so we try to spruce it up using a lot of humor and giving people the best food they’ve ever tasted.

G: It boils down to burning off more than you can chew, but people want to feel satisfied. When you tell them they have to eat less that’s not really good news to most, so if you can make the food flavorful they will be satisfied with the smaller portions. When food is not that delicious then people tend to eat a lot of it 'cause they're trying to get to that point of feeling satisfied.

NT: In the book you recommend purchasing Omega-3-enriched eggs. How important is buying organic -- especially in terms of eggs?

J: We advise people that if they can afford to buy organic or from local farmers it’s all better. With eggs, definitely. And you find the most pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in butter. That’s a really good one to buy organic if you can find it.

NT: Your ideal meal?

G: Janet and I play that game where you say ‘If we were on death row, what would our last meal be?’ Unfortunately it would be things like Boston cream donuts and chicken wings with blue cheese dressing, or lobster with lots of butter...but as far as a regular meal, we have a recipe in Eat, Drink, & Be Merry, a Mexican lasagna that uses flour tortillas instead of noodles, with chili layered in between, and grated cheese...I could eat that every day.

NT: You describe yourselves as “sisters, but not nuns”. Care to elaborate?

J: We don’t qualify our conduct.

G: We tell people that we don’t wear habits, we change people’s habits.


Eat, Shrink & Be Merry is only available online in the States. It is a buy one-get one free deal ($29.95) -- a way of acknowledging the high percentage of Canadians who have bought one copy and then returned to the store to purchase more as gifts.

Answer to Pop Quizine:

(c). “Interestingly, O.J. later claimed that he, himself, was out delivering pizzas that night. When it was pointed out that there were no pizzas in his Bronco, he accused the police of eating them.”

-- Lee Klein

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Lee Klein

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