Why You Should Give Gwyneth Paltrow’s Cookbook a Chance

published May 4, 2011
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

I’m not what you’d call a celebrity-obsessed person, so when I heard that Gwyneth Paltrow was releasing a cookbook, I admit I rolled my eyes a little. Who needs to be told how to cook by someone who probably has an army of assistants cooking for her? But then I actually read the book. And you know what? It’s a good cookbook.

Still not convinced? Here are four reasons why I think you should give Gwyneth’s cookbook a chance:

1. It’s heartfelt. The book is called My Father’s Daughter, which I’ll also admit elicited another eyeroll from me, but the love she has for her father —who taught her to appreciate good food and togetherness at the table — shines through with a warmth and sincerity. The story of a plate of duck ragu they shared three days before he passed away and her years-long quest to recapture that dish are truly moving. Yes, her father was famous director and producer Bruce Paltrow and yes, that special meal took place in a small village in Italy while they were on a “culinary road trip” together (sigh), but that doesn’t take away from the truthfulness of the emotions she expresses.

2. Gwyneth cooks the way I like to cook. And if you’re reading The Kitchn, it’s probably the way you like to cook too: healthy, simple, comforting food made with unprocessed ingredients, mostly quick enough to get onto the table after a long day of work, but with a few more complicated recipes for when you want to indulge in a day of all-out cooking. Parents will also appreciate that she includes notes on how she tweaks certain recipes to suit her kids’ tastes.

3. The recipe headnotes make you feel like she’s a friend. As a fan of well-written recipe headnotes, I tip my hat to whomever wrote the notes in this book. (Gwyneth, if it was you, well done.) Reading them, it’s easy to imagine that she’s a friend giving you a recipe she thinks you’ll like, and telling you a little story behind it or some hints on how to make it great. An example, from the headnotes for a breakfast Savory Rice Bowl:

Now we’re talking. I love a savory breakfast — and this is right up my alley. I first had a version of this at a Japanese monastery during a silent retreat — don’t ask, it’s a long story. Anyway it was a great (interesting) experience but the savory rice bowl was the best part.

See? Chatty and friendly, but not precious.

4. Most importantly, her recipes are good. I’ve only cooked a handful of recipes from the book, but all were as simple, delicious and healthy as promised. I like that the collection of dishes seems a bit hodgepodge; it feels like a true representation of how a real family eats, with recipes picked up here and there. No, her recipes for Roast Chicken, Rotisserie Style or Roasted Cauliflower aren’t going to change your outlook on cooking, but you will probably find more than a couple recipes to add to the weekly dinner rotation.

If the occasional reference to celebrities or exotic trips turns your stomach too much to be in the mood for cooking, this isn’t the book for you. But if you go in with an open mind, you might find that, like me, you’ve been charmed by Gwyneth and her surprisingly good recipes by the end.

Do you have this cookbook? What do you think of it?