In Defense of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Cookbook
Gwyneth Paltrow has been getting a lot of slack since she started her lifestyle blog Goop but the slack has clearly intensified into snark since the release of her cookbook, My Father’s Daughter. To get a taste of the extreme polarization GP has, on TheKitchn I found a review on GP’s cookbook about “why you should give it a chance.” The reviewer liked her book well enough, but the comments were bordering on awful, calling GP a self-absorbed hypocrite, or another commenter quipping that the only reason TheKitchn would post about GP is to drive traffic to their site. Wondering if this was just an isolated case of GP hate, I looked on Eater where they had written numerous posts on the subject, specifically a post on their favorite lines from her cookbook (and by favorite I mean their favorite to make fun of). Starting to actually feel bad for GP, I tried to find friendlier territory of humorous takes on the book, which lead me to “A Dramatic Reading of ‘My Father’s Daughter'”:
But this one takes the cake: The Danny/Gwyneth Project, a blog written by Danny a young 20-something living in Portland that takes on Gwyneth’s recipes in the same fashion Julie Powell did with Julia Child’s MTAFC in Julie & Julia. Over the next nine months he will make all 150 of GPs recipes. In making Chicken Milanese earlier this week, he finds the joy of tenderizing chicken breasts (or as he says, “the strangely satisfying feeling of demolishing something”); he finds and thanks Gwyneth for their commonality in drinking red wine while cooking; and most memorably, he finds himself without paper towels and uses toilet paper instead to pat the chicken breasts dry. Thus the title of the recipe changing from Chicken Milanese to Chicken Milanese, With Essence of Toilet Paper.
It’s hard for me to speculate on why GPs cookbook has garnered so much [negative] attention but I do know that when she announced her cookbook, I didn’t roll my eyes. When Eva Longoria announced her cookbook, I did roll my eyes. The difference? GP has a blog about food, she did the whole macrobiotic thing, and had a tv series with Mario Batali about eating food in Spain. She’s a super foodie! OF COURSE she’s going to put out a cookbook. And it’s a good one. Here’s what I like about it:
1. Details are important. For example, she knows the nutritional benefits of different kids of flour and tells you about it. I’m an all-purpose flour kind of gal but now, I’m going to try Spelt because it’s easier to digest than regular wheat flour. Or Barley flour because it contains each of eight essential amino acids that helps regulate blood sugar. Who knew?
2. Her pantry list. She got some slack for this from Heather Horn’s review in The Atlantic, and that it would: “take a cooking novice $450 and five days’ shipping time to acquire the “essential” ingredients of Gwyneth Paltrow’s pantry. It would cost an additional $1300 to upgrade a standard kitchen to one with all her “essential tools,” such as earthenware bowls, butcher block countertops, Global knives, a Vitamix blender, and a Le Creuset Dutch oven. That’s before you get anywhere near the organic duck.” GP is not assuming you’re starting from scratch, friends. She assumes you’re a regular cook and most likely, a cook that is going to step up your game and start adding in content with more nutritional value and less chemicals. Her pantry, frankly, looks a lot like mine and I’m no Batali. I may not have “Cholula hot sauce” (Frank will read this and ask me why we don’t…we need more kinds of hot sauces) but my pantry does come with peanut butter, ginger, soba noodles, eggs and butter. Her pantry is a well equipped pantry.
3. Versions of recipes. Not only does she tell you how you can take a meal from vegetarian to vegan, but gives alternative cooking ingredients to change up one dish. Frank is a picky eater and I find that it’s hard with so many recipes to take out one ingredient and sub in another because the recipe has been formulated by science, not taste and balancing ingredients.
4. How freakin’ easy the recipes are. From one quick read through, it’s obvious Gwyneth cooks her own meals and is a mom. These recipes are flexible, short, and easy to make. It’s not like picking up Bouchon by Thomas Keller after you just learned to make a roux. Which would be very silly.
5. She allows herself to eat butter and not go “down some kind of hippie shame spiral.” It’s a great line, especially if you went to a tree-hugging college like Whitman.