With cookbook, Ann Romney offers a peek into family life
Interview • New author talks about food on campaign trail, recipes and Mitt’s cooking skills.

By Kathy Stephenson

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: October 4, 2013 04:30PM
Updated: February 14, 2014 11:35PM
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Jim Cole | AP file photo In this June 2, 2011, file photo former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, accompanied by his wife Ann, arrives to announce his 2012 candidacy for president in Stratham, N.H.

Ann Romney has heard the criticism about having maids, hiring nannies and living a privileged life. It makes her laugh.

“It’s hilarious that they think I didn’t do things for my family,” said the wife of former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “If only they could have had a bird’s-eye view of us raising our five boys.”

Romney’s new cookbook, “The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home-Cooked Recipes and Favorite Traditions,” is surely designed to quell some of the skeptics. (Click here for a recipe for Apricot Coffee Cake.)

The full-color, hardback book, released by Utah’s Shadow Mountain publishing, includes personal memories, holiday traditions and a mix of family snapshots and stock photos. The 125 recipes range from Mitt’s favorite meatloaf to the buttermilk pancakes shared with the Secret Service detail at the end of the 2012 presidential campaign.

Romney has been promoting the book on national television, making appearances on “Good Morning America,” “Fox News” and “Rachael Ray.” On Friday, she returns to Utah — where she lived while her husband ran the 2002 Winter Olympics — for a book signing.

Earlier this week, on her way from New York City to Boston for a book event, Romney answered a few questions by telephone about the book and current cooking style. Her publicists asked that we avoid questions about the government shutdown and other current events.

After the campaign, one would think you’d want to relax; instead, you wrote a cookbook. Why?

A lot of people told me to write about the campaign, but I didn’t feel like it. It was just too raw. But a cookbook, it’s a happy thing and a totally different subject. My son Josh was the one that suggested it. I didn’t think it would be that much work because I already had recipes of things I had made over the years. Of course it was work. After you’ve been making thing for years, you realize you don’t really have a recipe for it, you just make it. I had to remake and remeasure some of the recipes. The front of the book also has a lot of writing. I didn’t plan to do that; it just evolved that way, and that took a lot more time.

During the campaign, was there a home-cooked dish that you and Mitt craved?

The thing that’s hard about being on the road is living out of a suitcase all the time; you miss home cooking. On the weekends, between repacking, if I had a little bit of time I’d make the Welsh skillet cakes; it’s the signature recipe [from my Welsh grandmother] in the book. I’d do a double batch and take them out on the trail with me. I’d give them to the press corps or my staff. It was a piece of home, grounding us all in a little bit of normalcy.

Does Mitt cook for you?

Mitt was always the cleanup man. But after my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, I was quite ill and unable to do things. Everything was stressful, especially after we got to Utah [for the Olympics] and we learned about the tough financial situation. Despite all that, Mitt learned how to roast chicken, roast vegetables and steam them. He stepped right in for me. He was so busy, but he allowed me to take care of myself a little bit.

Does he still do that?

No. I think he’s forgotten.

You included many family photos in the cookbook. Were they organized in photo albums or stored in shoeboxes?

I’m not a scrapbooker and I’m not organized. I used to be. But when I got sick in 1998, everything went out the window. My daughters-in-law have stepped in and are fantastic about it. They do such a good job, I don’t need to.

Is there a recipe that didn’t make the book that you wish had?

My mother’s popover recipe. It requires special pans and I didn’t think it would translate well for the book.

In the cookbook, you admit to going on a cooking strike after you dropped your youngest son at college. What did you eat?

That’s when I discovered rotisserie chicken. Some nights Mitt and I are honestly happy to make a bowl of oatmeal. If we don’t feel like cooking or going out, we’re happy with pancakes or an omelette.

What do you cook these days?

I’ve started cooking more fish. When the kids were younger, they didn’t like it, and here we live in Boston where it’s fabulous. We’re also on a green drink kick and very health conscious. I make three to five vegetable sides when I cook dinner now: green beans, boiled beets, roasted sweet potatoes. It’s very different than the way I cooked when the kids were young.

Is there a vegetable you don’t like?

Eggplant. Neither one of us will eat it — ever.

What’s your favorite fast-food meal?

Carl’s Jr. We get the jalapeño turkey burger. I eat it without the bread, but Mitt has the bun.

You’ll be in Utah during LDS General Conference. Will you attend any of the sessions?

No. But I’ll be watching with my grandchildren who I haven’t seen for a while. [Two of Romney’s sons still live in Utah.]

Are you catching up on any television shows you missed before the election?

During the campaign we downloaded “Downton Abbey” and “Modern Family.” And even though I don’t like the way the last season [of “Downton”] ended, I can’t wait for it to start again.

What was the last song you downloaded on your iPod?

“Try” by Pink. I love her music.

Romney signing

P Ann Romney, wife of former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, will be Salt Lake City to sign copies of her new cookbook, “The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home-Cooked Recipes and Favorite Traditions.”

When • Tonight, 6 to 8.

Where • Deseret Book in City Creek, 45 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City.

Cost • $29.99, available at the event.