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My Father's Daughter - Cookbook Review

Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness

By Gwyneth Paltrow

(Grand Central Life & Style, 2011)

My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

She acts. She administers lifestyle advice via her website Goop. She sings. She traveled her way across Spain with Mario Batali. And now she publishes cookbooks. Gwyneth Paltrow is certainly not the first celeb to multi-task beyond the reaches of Tinseltown — Francis Ford Coppola makes wine; Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel; and Schwarzenegger... you get the idea. But there's just something about Gwyneth that irks people, something that has turned the beautiful, Oscar-winning actress into the woman people love to hate, what with her marrying a rock star, bearing his two perfect children, becoming a super mom, super singer and now clamoring to become the hip generation's Martha Stewart.

So it's no surprise that the feedback on her new cookbook, My Father's Daughter, has been mostly negative. Ad nauseam we've heard critics' ridicule her owning a wood-burning pizza oven or the fact that she imports her dried chile from London. Yes, Gwyneth is not like most of us, she can afford cooking lessons from Jamie Oliver, she has easy access to Vegenaise and she buys only expensive organic meat. But there's nothing intrinsically wrong with these things. If you live in rural Alabama, this book is not for you and most of the required ingredients are certainly not available at Wal-Mart. But the same is true, say, of The French Laundry Cookbook or anything else published by a Thomas Keller or Ferran Adrià.

So after we overcame a certain amount of — we admit it — jealousy and hostility, we actually quite liked the casual tone and good recipes in My Father's Daughter; especially — as fellow parents of small children — the many creative suggestions for cooking for picky kids. We also rather liked the personal little anecdotes with each recipe, the duck "cassoulet" she first had in Paris with her dad, the chicken & dumplings from her childhood, the corn chowder inspired by her summering on Long Island, the panzella we can make when our bakery bread has gone stale. In fact, her recipes are a really good mix of homey and comfort food-style options such as lots of great pasta (spaghetti limone parmeggiano) with fresh and light gazpacho, fish tacos (including a veggie version) and Indian-spiced tuna steaks. Living in L.A., we also don't take issue with her suggestion to substitute mayo with readily available (here) Vegenaise. It's a suggestion that makes sense, as do turkey bacon and organic eggs. So in the end, she is like many of us after all, who live in Los Angeles or San Francisco or New York City, who grow our own veggie patches, buy organic for our kids and travel to Europe and bring back spices. There's much to love in her charming book and really nothing to loathe. So why do we still feel jealous?

Reviewed by Sylvie Greil

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Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe for fish tacos
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