June 14, 2011
My Father's Daughter - Gwyneth Paltrow's Cookbook Speaks From the Heart
I asked my recently visiting parents to bring me a copy of Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook "My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness" from the States. I was curious and, I confess, have always felt a bit guilty for writing a petty blog entry years ago expressing my jealously over the PBS series "On the Road" about eating around Spain. (I think I inexplicably felt that I held the market on loving Spanish food and culture - don't bother looking for it on the site, I removed it years ago in shame). I had also heard quite a bit about the book and its recipes and can closely relate with equating my love for cooking with my love for my family and the wonderful times that we have shared around the stove and the table.
My own father, who I am incredibly fortunate to say is healthy and wonderful, is a great scientist in the kitchen, making breads, pizza doughs and other dishes that depend heavily on strict measurements and a number of external factors such as oven temperature, type of dish, altitude, humidity, exact timing etc. It surely has something to do with his training as a marine biochemist, but I think mostly revolves around a type of intense culinary satisfaction - of being able to solve the riddle of a dish and recreate it the same way every time. My own culinary satisfaction manifests itself in a different way, from the challenge of being able to invent an amazing meal from the remains of the refrigerator or the dwindling contents of my spice cupboard. I like inventing, mixing and matching and making every dish my own.
It is the combination of these things that makes Paltrow's new book so enticing. Her philosophy on cooking is one that I share - use good-quality, fresh ingredients to make simple and delicious dishes (and, drink while you cook) and the recipes themselves are simple, interesting and intentionally leave a lot of room for adaption (for kids, vegans, main dishes, dinner parties, etc.), which I appreciate as I like to take inspiration from recipes, but rarely follow them to the letter. She even includes a couple of recipes from the time she spent in Spain studying abroad, which is also something I can relate closely to. This is, in fact, partly what led me to buy the book in the first place. About a year ago I saw the recipe for Pan Tumaca on her website (Goop) and thought, "13 years in Spain and it never occurred to me to grate the tomato - what a fantastic idea!". I have been using this technique ever since.
I should confess that I have yet to actually try any of the recipes. I meant to, I truly did, but I sat down with the book to find some inspiration for dinner and ended up reading the whole thing cover to cover with a glass of wine - forgetting about eating altogether. I can't remember ever doing this with a cookbook before.
In short, I found everything about it be refreshingly clear, tenderly nostalgic and an overall delightful read, lacking in any of the pretension that sometimes invades celebrity-chef cookbooks. Quite on the contrary, Paltrow's writing exudes a straightforward love of cooking, gastronomy and family that makes it easy to enjoy and relate to. Of course the fact that both she and her kitchen are absolutely beautiful doesn't hurt either.