Okay, I’ve written before about how research for my show Unnatural Spaces convinced me to dramatically reduce the amount of toxins I put in, on, and around my body. This means I’m trying to eat unprocessed foods, use cosmetics with ingredients I understand, and do things like clean my house with baking soda. I am also going through a period where soy and gluten make my body freak out. Some days, I feel I have it all under control – I have more energy, my skin is all glowy, and I’m starting to regain feeling in my hand (told you my body was freaking out!) Other days, I’m desperately sad, chomping on lentil salad and mineral water and watching my housemates chow down on pizza and delicious-delicious Bulleit. Or, putting on some organic vegan lip balm with moderate shine and colour and then cradling my old Revlon SuperLustres (I can’t bring myself to wear them, but I can’t bring myself to throw them away either!) So, I’ve been eagerly seeking out resources that provide reasonable advice about a plant-based, low-toxin lifestyle. Luckily for me, this spring brings two celebrity publications in this vein: Jessica Alba’s The Honest Life and Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good. I bought them both, and here’s the deal:
In a personality contest, Jessica wins. Her book is down to earth and generally relatable – until she gets to the clothing section. Celebrities always think that they are giving you budget advice when they say you can find cute options at JCrew. Listen lady, for almost everyone I know, shopping at the JCrew OUTLET is a super-splurge, and even Target is barely hitting the budget. How much do rich people think the average American makes? Or, I guess, maybe the assumption is that the “average American” is too busy worrying about gun violence and mounting debt to be thinking about the fact that they are being poisoned on the daily. This is why my ALL-TIME FAVORITE book on healthy eating/living is The Hood Heath Handbook. It keeps it real, with an analysis of systemic and historic racism to boot. But I digress.
If you’re still pretty new to trying to reduce the amount of toxins (aka poisons) in your everyday life, The Honest Life has a really accessible, no judgement vibe. I like that Jessica Alba acknowledges that some days, you just need to eat “that food” or pull out “that lip stick.” But she offers a lot of resources and friendly advice. If you’re not new to trying all this, The Honest Life isn’t going to give you a lot of new information, but it is a fun read with some helpful tips.
Unlike Jessica’s lifestyle guide, Gwynie’s book is a straight-up cookbook, and be WARNED. There is a reason there are so many people who straight up hate on Gwyneth. Where Jessica Alba grew up working class, so still kind of understands the concept of a budget, Paltrow has been rich all her life and doesn’t even TRY to think about life outside of her magical sphere. And it does seem magical – lots of pictures of pretty people and pretty food on pretty tables, looking wind blown and au natural. I guess this has the same vibe as Martha Stewart Living – mostly aspirational, sometimes ridiculous, and occasionally popping out some genuinely useful project. There are ingredients in the book I have not been able to find anywhere, not even at one of the largest Whole Foods in the country! Where does Gwynie’s assistant shop?! And when she describes popping out into her garden to grab some herbs and vegetables to throw an impromptu dinner together, I gagged. I guess she lives in some pseudo-urban organic paradise but I live in a part of Chicago the city doesn’t give a [bleep] about so even though we invested in turning our backyard into an organic garden last summer, it was quickly overrun with rats, who chowed down on our organic Swiss Chard and then burrowed into the beds, making rat babies. We tried coyote pee to scare them away and then plain old rat poison (which defeats the point of an organic vegetable bed, I KNOW) which they just pushed out of their rat holes, as if to say We’re Chicago Rats, Bitches.
So yeah, some of Paltrow’s advice is WAY WAY far away from my own life, but despite all that, I have to say that all of the recipes I’ve tried from the book are pretty good. First, I made vegan pozole. When I wrote about this on FB, my Mexican friends were pretty skeptical about Patrow coming with the pozole, but honestly, I’m not Mexican and I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a teenager and so the only pozole I’ve ever tried in my life was at Chipotle and this version was better than that! I would eat it again and again, no problem. I also made some roasted cauliflower with vegan alioli and crispy fried capers and it was SO SO SO SO SO good. And super simple. Roast the cauliflowers with oil and salt to taste. Fry some capers in oil until they are crispy (dry them first because they wet things spit when you fry them in oil). And add some minced garlic and lemon to taste to some mayo (I used vegan but I guess it doesn’t have to be). Put it all together and BAM! Awesome! She has actual measurements in her book, and suggests you add parsley, but I rarely follow those kinds of directions unless I’m baking. Usually, I just look at a recipe and get the general idea. Finally, I made some vegan, gluten-free, soy-free “cookies.” This recipe was accompanied by a story about overnighting them to her manager in London because he was doing a detox diet and craving them, which is the kind of anecdote that doesn’t win her any friends, especially because the cookies are… Okay… they are basically almond butter, maple syrup, and some GF flour mixed together with a few other baking ingredients. I added chocolate chips just cause. And at first, I was like, OH GROSS!!!!! THESE TASTE LIKE CARDBOARD SOAKED IN MAPLE SYRUP. But a day later, I find they are quite good dipped in coffee. They are as hard a rock so a nice alternative to biscotti.
Sigh. As Gwynie’s husband once sang: No one said it would be easy. No one said it would be this hard.