Steve Doocy and his new ‘The Happy Cookbook’ -- Want an instant happy place? Make a pot roast!

Summer 2018 ended last week and the calendar reminds us dreary winter weather is not that far off, but there’s a way to turn that feeling around— make a pot roast!

Not kidding, if you need some cheering up, a little kitchen therapy could help and I should know. My wife Kathy and I have spent the last three years writing The Happy Cookbook; A Celebration of the Food that Makes America Smile.  The idea is simple, there are certain foods that activate something in the nostalgia department of a person’s brain…and instantly takes them back to a happy place.

For instance, on my birthday each year, Kathy re-creates my mom’s signature pot roast, and as soon as I walk in the front door, that smell of it cooking all day transports me immediately fifty years in reverse. I’m ten years old again back in Kansas, doing my homework at our Formica kitchen table as my mom shakes the Lipton onion and cream of mushroom soup over that same pot roast. Elvis is belting out a classic on the living room Magnavox and all is right with the world.

The simple smell of a pot roast can do that, because most of us are blessed with the ability to remember things with our noses.

“There's nothing better than the smell of food cooking,” Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond told me on Fox & Friends. “That smell when you’re walking in the door and your house smells like a roast— it reminds you of your childhood.”


Then there are people who are far away from home like those serving in the U.S. military. Ever wonder what they’re thinking about when they’re in a combat zone waiting for somebody to start shooting at them?

Chicken and noodles.

What do you have to lose? As Erma Bombeck once said, “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

That’s what does it for Major Dan Rooney, USAF, a fighter pilot who flew many missions over Iraq. When he’s deployed, in quiet moments he thinks about what it will be like when he finally gets to go back home to Owasso, Oklahoma, where he’ll open that front door, smell the dinner made by his wife, Jacqy, get an almost Heimlich hug from his girls, and whatever hell he’s been through in the last couple of months just melts away.

“I think we all have recipes in our lives that have emotion attached to them,” Dan told me, “and chicken and noodles was always a coming home recipe. It’s that safe thing— you smell it and it makes you feel good. You get to sit down and eat something that makes you feel good and the world goes away.”

Sometimes just thinking about a beloved dish from your past is enough to tide you over until you can have the real thing again.

But it’s not just an aroma that can trigger a smile, it can be something random. You won’t understand this until you’ve read the cookbook, but whenever I open a car trunk, I think of our wedding cake.

If I see the word bourbon, I recall the Trump White House official who bakes with a hammer.

And when I hear the word mahi-mahi I’m back on our Hawaiian honeymoon after three days of not speaking to each other (which is rough on a honeymoon) – thankfully by the end of the trip we were giggling about my mahi-mahi misunderstanding, thanks to a miraculous invention called wine.

Our cookbook has over one hundred recipes that make somebody smile, and there’s a story that explains that at the beginning of every recipe.

We all have treasured recipes we’ve collected over the years that eventually become part of the fabric of our lives. That casserole you always take over to a friend who needs cheering up, or that tray of ziti you delivered to your neighbors who just had a new baby girl. That meal your kids begged you to make when they came home from college, or the recipe from that place with the velvet menu where you ate on your honeymoon—all remind you of something good.

What do you have to lose? As Erma Bombeck once said, “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Most of us go through life eating three meals a day, starting now, try to make a least one of them happy.

Adapted from “The Happy Cookbook” by Steve Doocy and Kathy Doocy. Copyright © 2018 by Steve Doocy and Kathy Doocy. Used with permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.