I was just having a look around Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook, and I love it. I knew I would love it because I’ve always loved her, from my first date (Shakespeare in Love) to Goop to Glee. She gave Cee Lo a run for his money. But as for the book, really the book, I love that the recipes are unpretentious and without gimmick–they just look like good food that she makes at home in London. Fish tacos. Chinese duck. Chicken and dumplings. And I love the balance–there’s a “no-fry” French fry recipe, and a deep fried French fry recipe. There’s Gruyère, but also Vegenaise (my mother would LOVE her). There’s no guilty food or healthy food–just lovely food made good for you at your discretion.
But more than that, I actually love the writing of it. Each recipe is forwarded by a little blurb about her family, or her memory of what inspired the dish, or what friend or relative first served it up, and it is all very raw and honest and real, with her casual bantering inflection bubbling up through the prose. When she writes of her father’s pancakes that the recipe “is so truthful to his pancakes that it’s almost hard for me to eat them, I keep expecting him to walk into the kitchen,” my throat caught. Because that is what food is to me, and all of us. The little memory, through tastes and smells and sights, that we can recreate from our happy past, when sometimes not all the parts of that past are still here.
I am if nothing else, like Gwyneth, my father’s daughter. Our birthdays are days apart. We are the same size. We think the same things, like the same things, cry at the same things. We are both weepers! And great seafood aficionados. And New Yorkers. We like music and food. We share these things, and talk about them, all the time. It is from that love, that I know many daughters have, that made Gwyneth’s book so palpably poignant, because I get it. My father taught me to cook too, even though he is a gourmand who can’t boil water. We stuck a fatty piece of steak under the broiler 25 years ago, and it ignited like the great fire of a small New York kitchen, and we’ve never cooked together since. But we have dined together extensively, all over the world, and we talk about where we’re going for dinner over the New York Times crossword puzzle at breakfast. And the hours in front of the Food Network that we have both logged–well, I think it’s safe to say my father is the reason you are reading this. I think his equivalent to Bruce Paltrow’s perfect pancakes is the great New York Eggplant Parmigiana–that dish will forever mean my dad to me.
I have one copy of this truly beautiful and heartfelt book to give away to one happy reader. Leave a comment about the one thing your dad taught you to make, or to eat, or to love, and I will choose at random among the comments. I can’t wait to hear all your stories.
This giveaway has closed and the winner has been contacted. Thank you so much for all your comments. They are wonderful!