I’ve always liked Gwyneth Paltrow, as much as I could like anyone I don’t know. I admire her work as an actor and I find it both charming and courageous that she also sings, dances, speaks Spanish, writes about food, raises kids, practices yoga, etc., etc. She seems like someone I’d want to be friends with. She demonstrates a good sense of humor, seems curious about the world and engaged in her life—honestly, she seems kind of awesome.
But maybe that is beside the point.
This week she published My Father’s Daughter, her first cookbook.
From the moment the book was announced, many inside (and outside) of the food industry have been rolling their eyes. For whatever reason, Paltrow has a lot of haters. Maybe because she seems so awesome. Maybe because we like to keep people in boxes. I’m sure everyone has a reason. But why not direct animosity at a celebrity like Charlie Sheen? And why not spend some time with the book before you criticize it?
I’ve been most confused by the criticism centered around the fact that she is privileged. Everyone writing about food is privileged! She is entering into good company. I don’t really expect her to apologize (or remain silent) because her life is different than mine. Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl and Martha Stewart all live in different income brackets than I do, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to listen to them talk about food.
But maybe that isn’t the point, either.
The book’s the thing.
When the book arrived at my door I felt some trepidation. I wasn’t exactly sure what I expected, but I wanted it to be good. I’ve found myself defending it a lot lately and I was worried I would be disappointed. I wasn’t. The book couldn’t disappoint, it is too good-natured.
My Father’s Daughter is beautifully produced—thanks, it seems, in large part to the talented Julia Turshen who collaborated with her on the production. Paltrow’s recollections of her late father are sweet, and I was moved by her admiration and love for him. Overall, I was interested and engaged. It was a glimpse into her kitchen, and into her relationship with food—which is what I like about cookbooks and blogs.
Don’t get me wrong, the book isn’t revolutionary and won’t necessarily change your life. But why should it be? If that was a requirement for publication most cookbooks (and blogs!) would not exist. The book is personal, and contains enough interesting recipes to keep me turning the page. Sure, lots of her fans will buy the book simply because she is on the cover, but I am glad that they will also get a collection of easy to prepare and healthy recipes.
Money doesn’t protect your ego and I admire Paltrow for taking risks like singing at the Country Music Awards or publishing a cookbook. I hope she keeps cooking, and keeps advocating for good food. I’ll continue to listen.
And as they say, the proof is in the pudding. In this case, cookies. These barley-almond thumbprints were immediately fascinating to me—it seemed impossible that they would taste good. But they do, they taste great. And are incredibly healthy, at least in terms of cookies. Win-win.
Think of them as a snack,more like a granola bar than a chocolate chip cookie. Throw a couple in your bag for an on-the-go snack, or let your kids go crazy on a plate of them. They are totally satisfying, and typical of the sort of simple and easily likable recipes Paltrow has filled her first cookbook with.
Lalo’s Famous Cookies (from My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow)
- 4 cups barley flour
- 3 cups raw whole almonds crushed in a food processor (about ten 2-second pulses)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1 cup maple syrup
- jam (I really liked raspberry but Paltrow also recommends apricot or blueberry)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine all of the ingredients, except the jam, in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Form into rounded tablespoon-sized balls and space them evenly on baking sheets lined with parchment. Use your index finger or the end of a wooden spoon to make an indentation and fill each cookie with a small amount of jam. Bake until cookies are evenly browned, about 20 minutes.