Weight Watchers' paella (Jean Nidetch Weight Watchers Cook Book, 1966)


Good ol' Jean Nidetch. She started Weight Watchers in her home in 1963, just her and a group of six fat girlfriends who were tired of being big and wanted to work together to remedy that fact. Ten years later she sold the program - and almost sixty years later, it's still going, though certainly in a much different iteration as what she first imagined.

Reading the preface and introduction of the cookbook is really fascinating - the essentials of the program really are very much the same, including her stipulation that people consult their doctors before following her ideas. She wasn't a doctor - just someone who was fat and tired and fed up - and she knew that the support group concept was just as important to the members' overall weight loss journey as the food and movement would be.

I used to go to meetings, and I absolutely loved them. I had an amazing local Coach/Leader/whatever the terminology is now - her name was Cassie, and she was an incredible motivator and cheerleader. She was about my mother's age, which I am sure helped me feel drawn to her. She was a perfect fit for the position, and she ensured that we felt welcome to the group, and that it was both a safe and healthy learning experience for everyone. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 and the quarantine of early 2020, our local WW center closed - first for safety, and then for good. They offered virtual meetings, but frankly it did not appeal to me - with my teaching and my son's classes now online also, it became a chore rather than the safe escape and weekly hour of "me" time. And, of course, the end of the meetings brought the end of my tracking, and eventually I regained all of the 30 or so pounds I'd lost.

Now, they've started up again - not in the same location, and only one meeting a week, and not with the Leader I loved, trusted, and had built up a relationship with. So, I'm mainly going solo. It is what it is for now, but I hope I can find a meeting I love eventually. Like Jean's original goal - it's not just about the food, but the community.

Now, as for the recipes in Jean's 1966 cookbook ... let's just say that they get creative. Lots of stretching the imagination, and plenty of attempts to jazz up even the simplest meal to make the program feel do-able, sustainable, livable for the long-term.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but her paella recipe seems to be missing a pretty critical, classic, essential paella ingredient, no?

Where's the rice?

I suppose in 1966, rice was white and starchy and not ideal for recipes - and of course, current substitutes like riced cauliflower or quinoa or even wild rice weren't yet readily available.

For me, at my current size, I get a lot of Points a day - so for us, I added rice. And to keep it kosher, I swapped out the shrimp for some bits of roasted salmon - one little slice split among the four servings. It came together very quickly and easily, and to my surprise, everyone really, really liked it - even the picky 8-year-old!

I'm three for three with him on these recipe tests so far, which is surprising for me ... he's usually quite picky about meat. (I made a chicken and biscuit casserole last week and he picked our the chicken and only ate the broccoli! My goodness.) Whatever the reason, I just hope the streak continues!


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