Photo: Pascal Le Segretain
By Rebecca Harrington, The Cut
I have always been an admirer of Gwyneth Paltrow, I am not afraid to admit it. She was so good in my favorite movie, A Perfect Murder. I also think her secondary career as a lifestyle guru is rather inspiring. If there wasn’t a GOOP, I would not have an eye-mask that has hollow indentations so that your eyes can blink.
When Gwyneth came out with her newest cookbook, It’s All Good, I was really excited. I have her other cookbook, My Father’s Daughter, already. It is a really good cookbook for the average woman (me). There are some healthy recipes and there are some delicious recipes. One time I had a dinner party and I made beer-battered fish tacos from that book and everyone liked them. This is saying a lot because usually my dinner parties are miserable failures in which people start ordering sushi in front of me like I’m not even there.
This new cookbook of Gwyneth’s has an interesting genesis. After enduring a panic attack during a supper party (I really understand), Gwyneth went to several doctors and realized she had sensitivities to various food groups, such as dairy, gluten, and chicken’s eggs. Thus, she felt she had to make a cookbook that eliminated all the bad foods that ruin lives, like bread, deepwater fish, red meat, cow’s milk, and eggplants, and focus on the “good” foods in the world, like goji berries and quail eggs. Hence, It’s All Good! Do you get it? All the foods that are not bad.
I was excited to try this diet. I always think I have allergies to mysterious foods. Plus this is a diet written by a woman who almost convinced me to buy really expensive towels from the country of Turkey because they were more absorbent. I basically signed up fifteen years ago when I watched A Perfect Murder for the first time.
I went on Amazon and purchased Gwyneth’s book as well as Tracy Anderson’s Method DVDs. Gwyneth reportedly does Tracy Anderson’s fitness method which focuses on “small muscles” for two hours a day, so if I am going to live Gwyneth, I figure, I might as well try to get her butt, that of a 22-year-old stripper.
When I finally get the book a month later (I pre-ordered it like a weirdo), I am filled with both happiness and fear. The book itself is beautiful; there are all these pictures of Gwyneth in a floppy hat in front of a barn or Gwyneth putting a huge fish in a vat of salt. While doing a close reading, however, I am stunned at the magnitude of the things I will have to give up. I can’t even eat yogurt, nor can I have a tomato or a strawberry! They all cause allergies! It seems excessive to me, yet the book also promises me that if I do this, I will have Gwyneth’s “clear eyes, glowing skin and fit body.” And I definitely want clear eyes! I decide to follow the seven-day detox diet listed in the back of the book, as well as a smattering of her other diet menus. One day I will live like a vegan Gwyneth, another day I will eat like a child of Gwyneth. Hopefully this will give me the whole Gwyneth experience.
Next, I go food shopping. I have been on many diets before, diets of famously excessive Hollywoods stars, including a star that one time ordered 200 pairs of mink earmuffs at a store just because she was going skiing soon (Here’s looking at you, Liz Taylor), but I have never paid this much for a week of groceries in my entire life.
At $154.31, it is almost triple what I usually pay for food, and I haven’t even bought all the fish I will eventually buy! (The diet is really heavy on fish.) I bought at least ten dollars worth of kale and an eleven-dollar jar of honey. Do you know what raw honey is? It is eleven dollars! And there are so many more ingredients than just those two. I actually had a mild panic attack while buying the food and I wasn’t even having a dinner party.
Every day on the Gwyneth diet starts with a heaping helping of something called “The Best Green Juice.” Like lots of other green juices, it is a mixture of kale, apple, lemon, mint, and ginger. I imagine it would be much easier to make this juice if you have a juicer, but I don’t have one of those. Gwyneth says it is equally fine to make with a blender and a “fine mesh strainer” which I also don’t think I have. Since I literally cannot spend any more money for a year, I will have to do without. I put the ingredients in the blender and blend them together. It tastes much like regular kale juice except has large pieces of kale still in it. This is breakfast.
After breakfast I decided to do the first DVD of the Tracy Anderson method. It’s difficult, actually. Essentially you hold tiny weights in your hand and then flap your arms wildly like a person in a Victorian insane asylum having an epileptic fit. You do this for an hour. At the end, I was so tired I lay on the floor.
After my workout, I decide to eat my morning snack — raw almonds soaked in water. Wet almonds are better than dry almonds because according to old Gwen, regular almonds are “hard to digest.” Wet almonds sound gross but are actually really delicious. The almonds have a kind of vanilla flavor to them once you soak them. I never really liked almonds before this. Is this diet actually going to be okay?
After a hearty lunch of a beet-greens soup (A soup made of the green leaves attached to a beet? This was weirdly delicious even though it sounded gross) and an afternoon smoothie that combined both avocado and cocoa powder (this is sort of like ice cream if ice cream tastes like avocados), I invited my friend over for Gwyneth’s version of BBQ chicken. My friend is usually quite skeptical of my diet experiments, but is an incredibly good sport. I once made her eat green risotto, for example, and we are still friends today. This time, however, I shocked her. “This is really good!” she said, almost taken aback. It was true. It was really good chicken. It was juicy and had an interesting flavor from the paprika Gwyneth had me use. I had eaten so healthily the entire day, it was all super-delicious, and I was not even hungry. I was starting to feel slightly superior. “You should soak raw almonds in water,” I said to my friend.
Flush off of last night’s success, I decide to hold a dinner party at my home and fixed on making Gwyneth’s meatballs, which do not have bread, eggs, red meat, or milk in them. My mother makes very good meatballs and those four things are basically the only ingredients in them, so I found this recipe suspect, but I pressed on. I thought wet almonds would be terrible, but I was completely wrong about that. I don’t know how to live!
While making the meatballs, however, I can tell something is up. No. 1: They are green (they are made of arugula and turkey). No. 2: I can’t put them in tomato sauce because I have eliminated tomatoes from my diet. Instead, I am serving them with a broccoli soup that tastes mostly like water. What is going on? Yesterday was so amazing! When my guests arrive and I feed them the meatballs, I can tell that they hate them. One of them pulls out a huge bag of chips and starts eating them in front of me. Another one leaves to “actually eat dinner.” I am about to have a panic attack when I suddenly remember when Gwyneth went to a dinner party in America and someone asked her what kind of jeans she was wearing and she thought to herself, “I have to get back to Europe.” America is the worst. I say nothing about anyone’s jeans, even though I was literally just going to ask everyone about their jeans.
Day 3 and 4:
This diet is much harder on the weekends. This city is stupid because everyone is obsessed with gluten-filled brunch and what even is it? Just an empty parade! I have to get back to Europe. On Sunday, I get to go to a pancake place that also sells kale juice and I silently watch my friend eat a pancake as I sip on some kale juice. Later, however, I roast a whole fish and serve it with anchovy salsa verde. It’s absolutely delicious. “I would like to meet Gwyneth Paltrow,” says an unnamed friend, eating the fish with a large spoonful of anchovy sauce. “She sounds really fun.” I enthuse: “She’s so fun. She smokes one cigarette a week!”
Deep in the annals of my kitchen, I find something amazing. It is called a fine mesh strainer! I must have bought it when I was in a coma. Now my kale juice tastes just like kale juice. The homemade horchata I make for a mid-morning snack is deeply improved. You really need raw honey for it, actually. It tastes much better and is non-alkaline forming. What has become of me?
Day 6 and 7:
On the days when you are not waving your arms like a loon, Tracy Anderson has another DVD called Dance Cardio Workout. It’s so incredibly hard that I can only do twenty minutes of it. From what I can gather, it is completely unexplained jumping to the dulcet beeping of late Madonna. You have to jump for a whole hour. I’m so tired afterward I actually have to go to sleep.
For dinner the next night, I make salt-roasted fish. You take a fish, cover it with herbs, and literally pour an entire container of salt on it. It’s okay. I think the whole thing would have been better if I really loved Thai chiles, but I don’t really like them that much. Sometimes, when I am cooking these recipes, I talk to my Gwyneth book like it is her incarnate. For example, I will say, “That’s a lot of salt, Gwyneth,” or “Goji berries ARE better when they are soaked in water. Thanks buddy!”
This was the last day of my detox and I have to say, it was kind of the best! I was never hungry, I loved almost all of the food I cooked, and I was actually much less swollen under my eyes than usual. I even feel slightly more alert, probably because I am not eating any tomatoes.
Today, I try out Gwyneth’s vegan food. Her vegan sesame pancakes are a delight. They taste like regular sesame pancakes except they have no gluten or dairy. Gwyneth’s version of veganism is not much different for her detox diet. It just has absolutely no meat or animal stuff. Did you know that Gwyneth had a vegan-themed party for her daughter Apple’s birthday? The more you know.
One time Gwyneth told the New York Daily News that she would “rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup.” This lead to me ask the question: Would it be fun to eat like a child of Gwyneth? Guess what? It’s really fun! For breakfast, I make her “buttermilk” (they are vegan, gluten-free, and have lemon juice and soy milk instead of buttermilk) pancakes. They are actually quite delicious, if slightly gummy. Her tuna salad with Vegenaise and dijon mustard is decent and respectable! It is good, so far, to be Apple and Moses, and not just because they pick avocados all the time and eat wood-grilled pizza.
For dinner, I decide to redeem myself and hold a dinner party again, this time making tacos the main event. Who doesn’t like tacos? I also decide to make an eggless and dairyless cake. The tacos are a stunning success. Her recipe for homemade chipotle salsa is as good as what I would eat at the actual Chipotle. I am very proud of Gwyneth and I cannot hide it. When people compliment the tacos, I say things like, “It’s Gwyneth!” or “This cookbook is really great. I don’t know how she does it.” I don’t ask one person about their jeans. The cake however, is another matter. Its crumbly and tastes like a prune, but this is probably my fault. “I like the tacos,” one of my friends says, after I ask about the cake.
I break the diet! I have lost four pounds and have much more defined arms from having hysterical fits everyday. It is definitely fun to eat bread, dairy, and eggs again, but when I finally have all those things for the first time after ten days without them, I wake up with a huge rash down the side of my face, like The Phantom of the Opera. Have I always actually been allergic to these foods? The rash goes away eventually, but I do feel suddenly distrustful of bread.
What have I learned from Gwyneth’s diet? It’s an awesome way to live! If I wasn’t going to go bankrupt to do it, I would follow the Gwyneth diet to the letter every day. The food is healthy, delicious, and filling, the recipes are not particularly complicated, and you avoid a huge rash on your face that you apparently just lived with before. If this is the way the other half lives, I want to live it! Let’s all appreciate that she shares her awesome tips with the world.
One time, Gwyneth went to Arizona for a spiritual retreat. She was walking in the Sedona mountains and the rocks told her, "You have the answers. You are the teacher." I agree with those rocks.