Cookbook Review: My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

Delicious recipes, family stories, and an inseparable bond between parent and child make My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow a touching standout from other recently-published celebrity cookbooks.

The roots for My Father’s Daughter began years ago with a giant supply of spaghetti and meatballs.  Paltrow was eighteen years old when her mother, actress Blythe Danner, was away working in New York.  Danner had kind-heartedly over-stocked the freezer with the spaghetti for Paltrow and her father, Bruce, but they were “meatballed out” and desperate to try something different – like cooking.

At the time of their drastic decision, neither Paltrow nor her father knew much about preparing meals except that they liked eating good food and tasting new dishes.  As they experimented with ingredients, they began watching the cooking channel together and learning basic things like the best way to chop an onion. Soon this determined father-daughter duo, which was already close, discovered that working together in the kitchen strengthened their parent-child bond even more.    

Eventually, their culinary skills evolved.  Family and friends were happily gathering around the table to enjoy their tasty creations, and more importantly, the time spent with each other.  Paltrow loved watching the joy in her father’s face when he brought people he loved together for a good meal and a memorable time. 

Sadly, Bruce Paltrow passed away from cancer in 2002, but through favorite recipes, family photos, and eclectic stories, My Father’s Daughter is able to reflect the overwhelming happiness he felt and shared with everyone who sat down at the table with him and his family.

Paltrow was affected deeply by her father’s death, but it also inspired her.  She started eating healthier, appreciated family togetherness more, began creating “mealtime memories” with her own children and authored My Father’s Daughter, which centers around all these changes in her life.

Just published in April, this 150-recipe collection contains treasured family favorites like, “Bruce Paltrow’s World-Famous Pancakes,” and newer “accidental success dishes” like “Fried Zucchini Spaghetti.”  There are sections on soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas, main courses, side dishes, breakfast and desserts.  Plus the recipes have colorful icons which easily distinguish them as make-ahead, quick, vegetarian, vegan, one-pot, or dress-up meals. 

Be warned that My Father’s Daughter does focus on healthy eating, but not in a way that will offend your taste buds.  The recipes are not filled with bean sprouts and tofu or anything else that many people put into the “has no flavor so I don’t want to eat it” category.  And when a recipe calls for a health-food ingredient like barley flour, Paltrow offers an easy conversion chart to determine what everyday ingredient can be used instead.  In the case of barley flour, Paltrow suggests unbleached all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour.

Also know that with one exception, which is Aunt Evelyn’s Brisket, there are no beef or pork recipes in My Father’s Daughter.  There are, however, plenty of poultry, seafood, pasta, and fish recipes to cover the main course genre so it doesn’t feel like anything is missing. 

Most of the recipes are at no more than a medium difficulty level, don’t require too many ingredients, and can be easily adjusted for your family’s specific flavor desire.  Each recipe also lists its total preparation time, and there are beautiful color photos throughout the book.   

The flaws with My Father’s Daughter are few.  The print could be slightly larger.  It would be nice to have the nutritional breakdown of each recipe, and a “Drinks” section would have been fun. 

As a cookbook, My Father’s Daughter is fairly down-to-earth, fun with a funky flair, leaves you appreciating family together time, and gives you some great new ideas for your family’s next meal together.

About the Author

Amy Morris

Amy Morris is a librarian technical assistant at the Westport Branch. She earned a B.A. in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, from Avila University.