3 Reasons We Will Probably End Up Buying Gwyneth’s New Cookbook

One of the things we were really reluctant to do, when we were writing about Spain: On The Road Again, is bag on Gwyneth Paltrow.  It took a lot of effort, but we did our best to avoid it.

After all, what has Paltrow really been up to lately?  She was in the Iron Man movies, sort of, and did that stint of episodes on Glee just now.  It almost seems untoward to pick on her for being a glamorous rich mom, when there are so many other glamorous rich moms out there doing pretty much the same things.  So, she’s living in London and raising her children named after fruits and just sort of doing her thing, right?  If she wants to be rich and raise rich kids, then super, you know?  She’s not rubbing it in our faces or anything, after all — and even if she was, it’s not like we can afford to do anything about it.

Well, unless you happen to have read anything at all about her book.

My Father’s Daughter, Paltrow’s first cookbook, promises “delicious, easy recipes celebrating family & togetherness.”  With about 150 different meals inside, ranging from dinners to sandwiches, soups to desserts, the book seeks to capture family life from the perspective of a wealthy Hollywood actress who took her summers in Massachusetts and sojourned in Spain during high school.

In other words, how can it be anything other than awesome? There are actually so many things to enjoy about this very idea that we have to put numbers to them, or else be overcome by pleasure overload.  For example:

1. Have you even read GOOP?

Because it’s the online newsletter that connects you to everything you need to know, like women who started their own clothing line “when faced with the problem of finding quality pjs while living in southwestern France.”

So relatable!  When you went on your 3-year adventure through South America, weren’t you thinking to yourself, “Someone should weave adorable, premium clothing out of all of these Alpacas?”  Because wow, were you ever on the same page as the people who totally did! And they barely charge more than a hundred bucks for a pair of kids’ PJs — that is worth it, especially when you think about what you’re doing for the local, sustainable economy over there in South America.

This is a world that actually exists, you guys!  There are people who think and say these things, with utter sincerity, and they are letting us watch.  We have to think that the cookbook is just more of the same.

Maybe there’ll be Alpacas!

2. The recipes themselves have nothing wrong with them, per se

If you take a look at the reviews over at Amazon.com, you’ll find that of the slightly-less-than-forty people who took the time to talk about her book, none of them technically hate it.  And that’s got to mean a lot, doesn’t it?  I mean:

…if you have more than very basic cooking skills, you’ll find yourself shaking your head a bit as you flip the pages here… As an example, there’s a recipe for a turkey [BLT]…that offers nothing new and surprising, just common sense how to assemble the sandwich. So when I finished this book I was left with the overall feeling that there’s not much here that isn’t already obvious to most people who like to cook.

After all, if you didn’t need just a little bit of help in thinking your way through a bacon, lettuce and (flips through My Father’s Daughter) … TOMATO sandwich!?  Well whatever, weirdo — the point is that there’s no great sin in covering the basics, as long as they’re competent.  Everyone has to make a beginning somewhere, and if you want to get in on the ground floor of how the rich and wealthy eat, why not start here!

I mean, instead of The New Best Recipe, or The Joy of Cooking, or The Art of French Cooking, or How To Cook Everything?  Other than those ones.   If you’re looking for a compendium of the basics, here’s a perfectly competent one that features only a “little bit of a lecturing tone in parts about ethical food issues but not so annoying that you want to throw the book at the wall”!


3. What if Paltrow is the next Martha Stewart?

As part of the PR launching the new book, Martha Stewart famously tooted:

Which got us thinking… what if that’s actually true, and as the result of an epic sword fight between the two, Stewart found herself ceding her authority to Paltrow?  (Especially since the outcome could not be influenced by Stewart bringing her favorite shotguns along?)

Or perhaps less dramatically, what if Stewart and Paltrow are so fundamentally similar that there is a natural heredity at work?  After all, the two have a great deal in common:  both made their early living being pretty, both have made the shift into selling lifestyle as a product, and both have made a business of bridging the gap between the haves and the wish-they-could-haves.

The deciding moment for Paltrow will come in whether she can achieve what we think makes Stewart so successful — not the maniacal attention to high quality, nor in the sense that everyone deserves the best they can possibly enjoy, and not even the almost-comically pre-assumed access to luxury that they both share.

Rather, it’s the difference in their approach:  Paltrow’s position is anchored in her assumption that anyone, if they just work hard enough, should be able to afford an Alpaca sweater, or an appreciation for macrobiotic eating, or the specific flavors of a backyard pizza oven.  Stewart, conversely, sharpens her perfectionism with a challenge of attainability:  there is nothing that she, her staff, her show or her magazine shows you that you could not, in the end, do yourself.

It’s a fine distinction, but a very important one.  Stewart shows you a way to clean your oven that is fiddly, specific and difficult, but in the end you can do it and your stove won’t be crusty any more; Paltrow shows you children’s clothes that you absolutely must have if you can pay for them, and if you can’t… well, are you trying hard enough?

The former is like a particularly difficult workout routine; the latter is like a job interview.  Commitment and energy, versus proving yourself worthy.

Oh, but if Paltrow can ever make the transition from the latter to the former, from displaying a lifestyle they wish they could join to showing people how to share in it?  Then she’ll become the next domestic goddess, and this book could be considered her first step on that road.

And isn’t this the sort of thing on which you’d like to be in at the ground floor?  Three years from now, when Gwyneth is doing her beautifully-filmed cooking show from a sun-drenched London kitchen loft with a verdant back garden, you could be among those who foresaw her career trajectory.  If she takes the next step just right, she could become Nigella and Martha combined, some kind of home cooking Mecha-Godzilla to conquer all the world; if she blunders, well, at least you’ll have a more advanced argument for making fun of her vanity cookbook.

Either way, we think there’s worlds of enjoyment here.

  • Marcel

    “bridging the gap between the haves and the wish-they-could-haves”…thank you for summarizing every decorating magazine ever published. I will remember that the next time Kristen begs me not to throw out the 6 month stack of magazines piled up on her nightstand.

  • http://eatingcookies.net Chrissy

    I looked at this book for about 30 seconds in the checkout line of Wallyworld and thought… No, thanks.

    I hope that for her first cooking show, she makes BLTs.

  • http://loladeecooks.blogspot.com/ Lola Dee

    she is bland, but palatable, yet very good for you, not unlike a bowl of oatmeal