“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
Clearly, celebrities get a lot of attention because, well, they’re celebrities. They’re pretty, they’re stylish, they’re rich and evidently, they are better human beings than the rest of us, given how much praise they get for whatever they happen to be doing. I honestly don’t know who many of them are any more, as I don’t watch television and I don’t read gossip magazines, save for skimming the headlines when I’m in line at the grocery store. For months, I had no idea who or what a “Honey Boo Boo” was. In retrospect, that was probably a good thing.
Little Man keeps me fairly current, at least with respect to singers, but even with that I have trouble distinguishing the difference between Bruno Mars and Maroon 5. I enjoy movies and music as much as the next person, and can appreciate great acting, singing and physical attractiveness. But I simply don’t pay attention to who’s new to the acting, singing or celebrity rehab admission scene, and I don’t follow their wardrobe malfunctions or sexting habits because it’s just not all that interesting to me. It’s not that I’m more enlightened than anyone who does, it’s just that between the 9-5, making sure Little Man has eaten and finished his homework and my growing anxiety about the Christmas tree that still mocks me from the living room, I simply can’t be bothered to waste time or brain space pondering what Miley Cyrus did at some awards show. As a lover of language, however, I do appreciate being able to add the word “twerking” to my vocabulary.
Recently, I was suffering a terrible bout of writer’s block due to stress, when a friend gave me a stack of old gossip magazines as a distraction. As I paged through them, I learned that Gwyneth Paltrow wrote a cookbook, It’s All Good, about eating healthy food. Actually, she’s written two cookbooks, which surprised me. Maybe I’m being unfair, but there’s just not a lot about Gwyn that says “foodie” to me. But, I figured, at least she’s doing something interesting, rather than Instagramming her new hair color, so I decided to find out if it is, indeed, all good.
The premise of the book is the “elimination” diet she is on, which mandates that foods such as wheat, sugar, corn, processed foods and a host of other bad stuff should be avoided because they may be harmful to us. This piqued my interest, given my own recent research into our food supply and the many troubling things the FDA has allowed into it. Would Gwyn be a fierce food warrior, standing with her shield and spatula against the multi-billion dollar food conglomerates that might poison us for profit? I could imagine the action-packed Oscar-winning movie, already! I was impressed to see a celebrity use her celebritydom to encourage and facilitate a healthier population, rather than a new perfume line. And who am I to presume that Gwyn doesn’t have culinary prowess? Also, since I feel like I’m having to re-learn how to cook due to my new semi-Paleo diet, I welcome any new recipes or techniques that can help me re-create the foods I love sans all the stuff I’m trying to avoid.
However, when I began to explore Gwyn’s book, I felt disappointed. Not only were the many, many photos of Gwyn a little narcissistic in my opinion, I already know how to hard-boil an egg. And for this, she actually instructs that you need to peel off and discard the shell. There are some other intelligence-insulting “recipes” in the book (Gwen, I truly don’t need a recipe for popcorn), as well as some that just make me sad. I want to eat as healthfully as possible, but am not sure I will ever be able to concede that kale juice makes a satisfying breakfast. And I would still like to enjoy my food.
To be fair, there are some recipes that sounded delicious, such as a grilled fish with an anchovy salsa verde. But unfortunately, unless I am somehow able to quit my job while simultaneously getting a massive salary increase, I’m not certain I would ever have the time or money to make these dishes a part of my daily culinary repertoire. I have already learned that buying organic foods increases my food bill substantially, and that preparing healthy foods that require substitutes to familiar and inexpensive ingredients takes more time. But I refuse to accept that a $25 jar of Manuka honey from New Zealand is the only thing that will make my salad palatable. If I’m spending that much for 8 oz. of something, there’d better be cheese involved.
And therein lies my frustration with her book. I lack the medical qualifications to say with any authority whether Gwyn, or any other “chef,” is correct in his or her approach to healthy eating. But it seems reasonable to say that wholesome food should be accessible to everyone. One shouldn’t need to sacrifice an entire paycheck or necessary medications in order to eat a diet that is both nourishing and delicious. And rather than share how she once overnighted some almond cookies from London to a friend, or how the apple trees at her house in the Hamptons are bursting with fruit in October, perhaps it would be more useful for those wishing to eat better to hear about some alternatives to $10 a dozen duck eggs for an egg-white omelet. Or perhaps Gwyn could use her celebritydom to publicly discuss the inherent problems with how our food is produced, distributed and priced. Instead, her book, which reads more like a yuppie catalog than a cookbook, smacks of “don’t you wish you were me,” which is largely why I avoid celebrity goings-on to begin with.
Perhaps the economy of food is an issue that is simply too big for one actress, so I’ll cut her some slack there. And maybe, when you’ve had a lifetime of privilege and access, it really is difficult to grasp the realities of regular folk. So perhaps Gwyn and others like her aren’t so much arrogant as they are simply clueless. I’ve never had much of an opinion about Gwyn either way, and I hesitate to get terribly negative about her now, based on her “cookbook.” But as a foodie, myself, I was terribly disappointed. I wouldn’t presume that her intentions with writing a cookbook are anything but honorable. But with respect to It’s All Good, it seems at best impractical (and a little boring) and at most very “let them eat cake.” And that is not all good. © Racheal Lee Bradford