When a kind PR offered to send me Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookery book, I must admit I rubbed my hands a bit in glee. Talk about an easy target – the macrobiotic actress who looks as though she’s never munched on anything more calorific than a leaf of rocket, actually presuming to tell the rest of us how to cook? And cook for our children, too? Pah! Bring it on.
But, somewhat to my astonishment, and yes, I’ll admit, a little to my disappointment, it’s a great, and even a sensible, book. Sure, it does feature a million shots of Gwyneth, wafting around her impossibly chic kitchen/garden/life, wearing white, with a waist the size of my wrist and two utterly gorgeous blonde children in tow, which is a little hard to take if you weigh anything over six stone and are less than perfect in every single way. I never wore white as a child, as it would be dirty in seconds, and I never wear white now, sadly for the same reason. How can Gwyneth cook and wear white? It’s not natural. And yes, she does mention spelt a lot and keep offering vegan alternatives to everything. But I’ll let her get away with it, because, unlike her chilly-knickers perfect public image, the book is actually warm and funny. It’s a love letter of a sort to her father, who died in 2002, who had bequeathed to her his love for food, fine ingredients, cooking and above all, feeding the ones you love. Poignantly, she writes that it was because of her father that she set off down her extreme macrobiotic route, as an attempt to cure him from within when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
I felt a little bit sorry for Gwyneth’s mum, who scarcely gets a look-in except as the person who used to reheat Campbell’s tomato soup and buy readymade macaroni cheese (hardly a macrobiotic dream). Gwyneth’s rock star husband, though, is conspicious by his total absence. I couldn’t help speculating a bit about that. But maybe it’s not sinister and he just didn’t look utterly perfect in white, and so was cut out of all the photos. Let’s hope it was just that.
Some people might find Gwyneth’s tantalising titbits about other stars a bit trying – Nora Ephron’s habit of choosing a dinnertime topic to dissect, the lecture on factory farming from Leonardo di Caprio which made Gwyneth forswear pork and beef, her private cooking lesson from Jamie Oliver – but I’m afraid I don’t mind it at all, in fact I just lap it right up. And there are actually some pretty useful recipes in there, like the ten-hour chicken, which you can put on in the morning and which will be perfect when everyone gets home from school/work in the evening. I’ll definitely give that a go. But I won’t be wearing white.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Notes from my kitchen table