Gwyneth Paltrow isn't exactly relatable. She's a near-constant target of grief and ridicule because, well, she's undeniably rich, thin, and completely out of touch. Her weekly newsletter and lifestyle company Goop routinely markets products like $800 candlesticks and $96 underwear. She uses phrases—she coins phrases—like "consciously uncoupling." In the introduction to her latest cookbook, It's All Easy, she places an asterisk next to the acronym FOMO, leading to a footnote that rather lamely explains, "Fear of missing out."
It's easy, then, to roll your eyes at the title of It's All Easy. "I am sure everything is all easy when you have perfect hair and an Academy Award and a slew of chefs and maids," I said to the smiling portrait of Paltrow wearing a olive cashmere sweater and holding what looks like a cardboard box full of plants on the cover.
I am not new to Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook trickery. I own both of Gwyneth's previous culinary adventures, It's All Good (2013) and My Father's Daughter (2011). And let me tell you something: In neither of those cookbooks is "it all easy." In fact, both of those cookbooks, with their emphasis on clean eating (which, for Paltrow, means absolutely nothing fun and nothing fatty), make cooking actively more difficult than it needs to be. One of my favorite recipes from It's All Good is a sriracha-lime baked salmon. The catch? Gwyneth wants you to make your own sriracha. I am not doing this, obviously, because I have a job and a dog and a lot of things I would rather do than make my own sriracha.
Gwyneth's earlier cookbooks, let me be clear, had some very good recipes in them, but they are for people who take cooking very seriously. Those recipes call for an unreasonably elaborate sauce component, or take an unreasonable amount of time to prepare, or require an unreasonably expensive ingredient. And in classic GP form, in the introduction to It's All Easy, the author immediately gives us reason to doubt her. She writes, "Because we never sacrifice deliciousness, some of these recipes might have an extra step or a special ingredient that might not seem super easy, but trust us, it's worth it." Okay.
So I got a press copy of It's All Easy sent to my home. I put little sticky tabs on the pictures I liked. I made my grocery list. It cost me $136.24 for my week of groceries—five Gwyneth breakfasts, five Gwyneth dinners, and two Gwyneth snacks for two people—and one bottle of wine, because Gwyneth notes in the book that she often has a glass with dinner. (Whatever you say, Gwyneth.) For comparison's sake, I spent $117 the week before. This is not cheap for groceries, but it is also not an outlandish amount of money to spend to feed yourself.
My bias is that I went into this book skeptical, but my dirty little secret is that I love Gwyneth Paltrow. Something about how ridiculous she is—the blasé tone with which she recommends a $60 lip balm, her complete disregard for public approval, and her ability to wear a white blouse all day—endears her to me. Plus, I shamelessly enjoy Shakespeare in Love.
The first meal I made was zucchini "noodles" with spinach pesto. This is what they looked like.
This meal was, in fact, easy. I timed my cooking from the moment I stepped into the kitchen until the moment I snapped this picture. It took 27 minutes total. Safely "under 30 minutes," as Gwyneth promised. The basil pesto was nice, if a little too oily for my taste, and the zucchini noodles were crisp. It seemed to me like a fine way to trick yourself into eating vegetables. Then again, my taste tester hated the zoodles and said he wished they were regular noodles (rude).
But the secret to the "easiness" of this recipe is modern food science. To make this meal, you need not only a spiralizer, but also either a food processor or a blender. If you are a person who makes dinner every night and buys cookbooks regularly (me), you own these things. But many home cooks might not. And given that you do have a spiralizer and food processor on hand, you're now stuck with two separate appliances to clean. That's not "easy!"
Next I made the "Tortilla Soup Noodle Pot."
This was supposed to be a lunch I made in a mason jar and poured boiling water on top of. I did not do this. I just made it in a pot and and a pan like a normal human, and it was pretty good. Like several of Gwyneth's Mexican-ish recipes (from this book, I tried the migas, black bean soup, and taquitos), this meal was significantly lacking in both salt and spice. I know because I am from Texas. You can trust me.
None of these recipes had even an ounce of heat, nor did they have enough lime juice. Do not trust Gwyneth Paltrow with Mexican food unless you like your Mexican food as bland as Chris Martin's voice.
But when she stays in her lane—the fancy rich white lady food lane—Gwyneth Paltrow fucking delivers.
I made beet chips. I made bacon avocado toast. I made spring veggie toast with radishes—an ingredient I'd never worked with before. I made grilled chicken chopped salad and pan-seared brussels sprouts. I made soft polenta! All of these things tasted like they were good for me, and also I ate them too fast to take pictures, so that means something.
Nothing better encapsulates what It's All Easy is all about than the book's very first recipe: the açai bowl.
This little gem has all sorts of ingredients I don't own, like rice milk, dates, frozen açai berries, dried goji berries, almond butter, and coconut flakes. I bought these things. I put them in this bowl, and I achieved nirvana. I will never make this again because it required too many ingredients for 6:30 a.m. That said, I normally eat breakfast at 7 a.m. and lunch at 11 a.m., but on the days when I ate this magical bowl of berries and other shit, I wasn't hungry until 1 p.m. Bless you, GP, for transforming me into the fancy, healthy bitch of my dreams.
This, I guess, is key to the appeal of a Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook: It's all about crunchy, hippie white lady granola. Literally. I made granola.
This is not something I have ever done before. I only buy granola in the form of bars that come with chocolate chips in them. But this was so easy. I put nuts and oats and stuff on a tray with maple syrup and coconut oil and just left it all in the oven! I don't know if granola is still considered healthy when you're pouring it out of the bag directly into your mouth for days on end, but this did taste really good.
The true difference between It's All Easy and Gwyneth's other cookbooks, though, is its refusal to stay loyal to any one diet. There is a recipe for grilled cheese, and one for carbonara. Recipes use flour (the horror!) and sugar (ahhh!) and even butter (how dare you?). Maybe this is because Gwyneth switched co-writers for this book, working with Thea Baumann, Goop's food editor. Maybe it's because things that are "easy" aren't always "healthy." Or maybe Gwyneth is realizing that no one can be perfect all the time, not even her.
Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.