My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow: The Fun Family Cookbook that Works



The first two things that struck me about My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness, the new cookbook by Gwyneth Paltrow, is that it is fun and practical. One read through quickly dispelled any notion it would be full of macrobiotic madness served up with a side of back cupping. In fact, I found it to be quite the opposite. The topic of healthy, nourishing family food is a common theme amongst all of us home cooks and Paltrow manages to present it in an easy-going fashion that does feel at all preachy or overbearing. I found her recipes to be very useful and interesting for the everyday kitchen and tabbed several dishes I want to make. Amongst them are a few soups, a pasta with homemade sauce and no fewer than three burger recipes for my husband to grill this summer. I am especially intrigued by her recipes for 10 Hour Chicken and Hot Nicoise Salad – both are on my short list of things to make this weekend.

I always read cookbooks like novels — they are piled high on my nightstand — and I flat out enjoyed reading the side notes about Paltrow’s family, her deep love for her father (I can relate), her family’s favorite burgers and her all-too-familiar stories of broccoli negotiations with the kids. Despite her impressive chops as a dramatic actress the tone is not at all sappy or tedious. Many people who don’t really cook or read cookbooks have been having fun slamming Paltrow’s obvious nods to her more privileged lifestyle. I think those reports are bogus. Her normal is different than our normal, but that doesn’t mean she can’t cook good, interesting food. Sure, the story of her private cooking lesson with Jamie Oliver is not exactly commonplace, but I don’t begrudge her that experience. If someone gave me a private cooking lesson with Jamie I would certainly write about it in my cookbook!

The take home message here is that Paltrow is a parent, she inherited a love for good food from her late father, and she likes to cook. Reading her recipes and notes almost felt like I was at some sort of recipe swap. I am willing to bet that the recipes in these pages are the sames ones she suggests to other moms at the playground when they are chatting about what to make for dinner.  Since I don’t live anywhere near London, and, therefore, will probably never, ever bump into her at the market for a quick recipe exchange, having this book is the next best thing. For example, when I make my favorite slow-roasted tomatoes this summer maybe I’ll try and make Paltrow’s recipe for Slow-Roasted Tomato & Arugula Salad. I have a feeling that is the type of thing she would suggest. I, in exchange, would give her my recipe for slow-roasted tomato pasta salad to try out. Just one mom swapping recipes with another.

In the opening pages Paltrow is quick to point out that she had a lot of professional help testing recipes and writing the book from the well-known food writer Julia Turshen. Having just wrapped up the first draft of my own manuscript I can only imagine how much easier the book writing process was for Paltrow with Julia around to help. The good news about this insertion of professional help is that it lends more credibility to the work, but doesn’t compromise its purpose. This is still a cookbook by a home cook, written for home cooks.

In celebration of this great new book I am going to be cooking from My Father’s Daughter for the next few weeks and posting the recipes here.  Today I am starting with her Fried Zucchini & Spaghetti. I had some early zucchini in my fridge and it seemed like the natural place to start. Stay tuned each week as this series continues this spring and summer. And, if any of you are cooking from My Father’s Daughter feel free to chime in here with your own feedback as well. Bon Appetit!