At first I thought that I didn’t like Gwyneth Paltrow. Its an easy conclusion to arrive at, after all she did sob all the way through her Oscar acceptance speech, is married to the most boring man in pop, has perfect hair/skin/figure and bleets on about her wonderful lifestyle on Goop.com. Spare me. But then two things struck me. One is that this woman is good friends with Beyonce and Jay Z. Jealous though I may be, anyone good enough for Miss Single Ladies is good enough for me. I can forgive the boring taste in men when I consider her wonderful taste in friends, especially as I know deep down that one day Beyonce and I will be best friends (humour me, ok?). The second was that I recalled seeing Gwyneth on The Graham Norton Show a couple of years ago where she did a pretty fine job of rapping her way through an NWA track. Best friends with Beyonce and a dab hand at rapping? Why, Gwyneth and I are cut from the very same cloth! How can I hold any sort of grudge against her for her perfect skin when in actual fact we are one and the same. It would be like hating myself and I’m all about self acceptance.
So when my lovely Aunty brought me a housewarming gift of two cookbooks, one being Gwyneth’s ‘Notes From My Kitchen Table’, I was intrigued to see what she could offer me in the way of discovering new dishes and tasty treats. Warning: if you don’t like name dropping then you’d do well to skip the acknowledgments page which reads like a who’s who of A-listers, including my future BFF’s The Carters. If you didn’t already know Gwynnie was well connected, this page would set you straight. One thing that really struck me about her attitude towards food from this book is that she seems slightly scared of it. I’m all for living a healthy lifestyle and an everything in moderation type attitude towards food, but I firmly believe food is to be enjoyed and that too much of a good thing can be bloody wonderful. Life’s too short to make a brownie healthy, which unfortunately Gwyneth seems to have had the time to do. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to eat a brownie or three I want it with side orders of guilt and sugar highs. Gwyneth gives a recipe for brownies that she says are as healthy as possible without sacrificing any of the flavour. When did it become socially acceptable to put agave syrup, soy milk and grain sweetened choc chips (that’s right, not sugar sweetened, grain sweetened) into the mighty brownie? I’ll tell you when: never. A brownie recipe with no sugar or butter is an abomination. If I didn’t want sugar or butter in my diet then well, I’d probably be hugely depressed and locked in a padded cell for my own safety, but that’s beside the point, I’d eat only quinoa and vegetables, not faff about with the brownie. It’s safe to say that I will not be making the brownies from this book. They offend me.
Aside from interfering with brownies, the cookbooks actually pretty good. The majority of recipes are fresh, nutritious and light so if you’re looking for low fat meals this wouldn’t be a bad investment. Crammed full of salads, soups, sandwiches and dinner options you’re bound to find something healthy to eat. To be fair to the author, her father died of cancer and she states in the book that she believes his diet had a part to play in him suffering from the disease so I can understand her caution and attitude towards food. While there aren’t really any properly unhealthy recipes in the book, naturally I gravitated towards the ‘worst’ one. Quellé surprise! This would be French toast made with brioche, that heavenly, buttery, soft, sweet bread which soaked up the egg and vanilla batter exceptionally well. Fried in butter and sprinkled with what Gwyneth states should be a tiny amount of sugar, instructions which I took the liberty of ignoring, the slices of brioche crisped up beautifully. I topped the vanilla absorbed slices with chopped banana, icing sugar and a good drizzle of maple syrup, and tucked right in. The toast itself is crisp on the outside, gooey and moist within and you don’t need me to tell you that the banana and syrup were perfect partners. As Sunday morning breakfasts go, it was up there with the best that bacon can offer. Gwyneth, you’re cookbook passes muster with me, just don’t mess with any other sweet baked goods again.