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When it comes to food, Jane Fonda is a man's woman...


When it comes to food, Jane Fonda is a man's woman. Her culinary evolution started with her father and developed through subsequent husbands.

But when it comes to business partners and advisors, she's a woman's woman. She surrounds herself with longtime female friends.

The star status, the flawless makeup and that killer smile don't get in the way. Just don't ask her to cook.

"I rarely cook anymore," says the 58-year-old actress and fitness guru. But she does have a cookbook. "Jane Fonda: Cooking for Healthy Living" (Turner Publishing Inc., $29.95) is due out Oct. 1.

She was in Los Angeles recently to pick up a lifetime achievement award from Shape Magazine for her contributions to fitness, to see friends and to visit her 23-year-old son, Troy. She managed to squeeze in a few 20-minute interviews with journalists behind double doors of a function room in the Bel-Age Hotel in Hollywood. Elegantly garbed in silk and camel-colored gabardine, she gave directions. And took them.

Between camera flashes and the intermittent charge of the makeup brigade, brandishing hairbrushes and spray cans, the actress held the right chin angle and caught up with news of friends' children.

She delivers a boardroom handshake and disarms almost everyone with wisecracks and a good ol' boy's demeanor. When she wants to emphasize a point, she raps her knuckles against the nearest knee when a shoulder is out of reach.

The cover of the book will not show her in a tomato sauce-stained apron, wielding a ladle. "That's the first condition I made to the publisher," she says. "I don't cook, and the recipes in the book are foods we eat, not ones I make."

. She gives credit for the 120 recipes in the book to Karen Averitt, her personal chef and good friend.

The idea to do a cookbook came, as do all of Fonda's business ventures, from a suggestion. "People always ask me what I eat," she says, "not, 'Do I cook?' They think I look good for my age.

"I didn't give it too much thought at first. But we do eat well and entertain a lot. Guests always rave about the food and say they never gain weight. So Karen and I thought, 'Why not? We'll put it all down in a book.' "

Her earliest introduction to good fresh food came through her father, the late Henry Fonda. He was a Midwesterner by birth and an avid gardener and farmer. When she was growing up in the Santa Monica Mountains during World War II, he had a victory garden and raised rabbits and chickens.

Years later, he continued to till the soil in the backyard of the estate he'd moved to in Bel-Air. It was he who taught Jane and her brother, Peter, about soil and composting, seeds and planting.

But the Fonda family always had full-time domestic help, and cooking held little appeal for Jane. "And besides," she says, "I was always Henry Fonda's daughter, so no one ever expected me to cook."

Studying in France was her first genuine exposure to serious cuisine and the European way of regarding the table. When she married French film director Roger Vadim, who was passionate about food, the 24-year-old Fonda put herself in cooking school and tackled the Paris markets with imperfect French. She was married to Vadim from 1965 to 1970. She became fascinated with the shops that specialized in the cheeses and breads.

"The French live by the table," she says, "and long after the food is gone, they are still there. Dining is as much about friends and conversation as it is about food."

Vadim is now a chef. "Says a lot about his wives," she adds.

During the post-Vietnam War era, she spent more time at the podium than in the kitchen, except to make a baby formula of goat's milk, cranberry juice, yeast and desiccated baby veal liver. Her influences at that time were Adele Davis and Frances Moore Lappe, and she still keeps in touch with the author of "Diet for a Small Planet" and calls her "my guru."

Today, living with Turner has brought out her outdoors side. "All the men in my life were great fishermen," she says, "so I learned how, and I'm good. I can even bone 'em."

Henry Fonda, Vadim and Turner were all deep-sea fishermen. Tom Hayden, former political activist and now a Democratic state senator from Los Angeles, whom she married in 1973 and divorced in 1989, is a big bass man.

When asked for her best fish story, she doesn't hesitate. "A 24-inch brown trout in a creek by the ranch," she insists, stretching out her hands. "I was alone, didn't have a camera. A ranch record. Take that, Ted."

She's a cookbook reader and occasional user and buys them on the merits of their photos. But she makes exceptions for photoless favorites, such as "Joy of Cooking" and "Jane Brody's Good Food Book."

" 'Joy's' recipes aren't that healthy but they're good and they work. Brody's are delicious and they're healthy," she says

If Fonda is home alone, a hands-down favorite meal is stir-fried vegetables "cooked in the wok with lots of garlic" until they're nearly black, and rice--basmati or glutinous.

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