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Is Jessica Seinfeld the anti-Gwyneth Paltrow?

Not quite. But her new cookbook ‘Food Swings’ is refreshingly approachable.

Rachel Shukert
April 28, 2017
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
Jessica Seinfeld attends the 55th Annual CLIO Awards at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, October 1, 2014.Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
Jessica Seinfeld attends the 55th Annual CLIO Awards at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, October 1, 2014.Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Jessica Seinfeld—author, philanthropist, child advocate, and yes, wife of Jerry—has a new cookbook out this week, her fourth. Called Food Swings, it purports to offer 125 simple recipes geared towards the way people eat in real life. That is to say: imperfectly.

Divided into two sections, “Vice” (with recipes for things like cinnamon buns and fried chicken) and “Virtue” (your salmon with cucumber salad, your roasted cauliflower), Seinfeld’s latest foray into the food-publishing world acknowledges the fact that sometimes people eat a quinoa bowl for breakfast, but sometimes the same people also eat a glazed doughnut, or three, on off days. (Sometimes, if you live in Los Angeles but work in a television writer’s room, you eat both. Not that I would know anything about that.) And let’s set aside the assigning of moral value judgments (vice vs. virtue? seriously?) to certain foods that would make the ears of a eating disorder counselor smoke with fury (because remember, food is just food, everything in moderation!). Because, in the world of the celebrity-and-celebrity-adjacent-lifestyle-industrial complex, Seinfeld’s book, for the most part, takes on a refreshing attitude toward cooking and eating, to say the least.

One of the more disturbing trends in luxury living today is its organic and expensively sourced asceticism, the substitution of “wellness” for anything resembling actual pleasure. Don’t eat a slice of that greasy, delicious pizza from the joint on the corner; try this make-at-home spelt crust version with cashew cheese that even your adorable children might eat after you spent 3 hours working on the dough with a mortar and pestle! Don’t have fun sloppy drunk sex with the guy you brought home from the bar until your Kegel muscles have spent some quality time working out with a $60 jade egg that will absolutely optimize your orgasm!

In a recent interview with New York Magazine’s Vulture blog ruefully notes that she and her husband “haven’t been fancy for very long”—the former Jessica Sklar grew up in a middle-class Jewish household in Vermont, with a social worker mother and a father who was a software engineer; her famous husband’s rise to fame from the milieu of Massapequa is well-known. “There’s this approach to wellness that is incredibly off-putting and inaccessible to people who don’t have a lot of money,” Seinfeld said, “and I’m really against it. I go through Instagram and look at a lot of these sites and cringe because—I’m about to get in trouble—I just feel like it’s a lot of privilege, pretentiousness, and high-mindedness about both exercise and food that make a lot of people feel really bad. I want nothing to do with it.”

It’s not the kind of proletarian message you’d expect to hear from a woman who once sent Oprah 21 pairs of Christian Louboutins as a thank-you present for having her on her show to promote her first cookbook, Deceptively Delicious (a treatise on how to sneak vegetables into kids’ spaghetti sauce and brownie recipes, which later fell prey to some nasty and ultimately dismissed accusations of plagiarism). But in these times of increasing class consciousness, Seinfeld’s message is welcome one nonetheless.

By positing herself as a “normal,” as a person who consumes things like pizza-by-the-slice, chicken wings, and alcoholic cocktails unadulterated by bee pollen or maca powder, Seinfeld is positioning herself—and her brand—as the anti-Gwyneth Paltrow: an ambassador for a certain kind of aspiration down-to-earth-ness, the kind of person you might see yourself actually having the willpower to become if you had a billion dollars and the most powerful social connections in Manhattan. Whether or not Jessica Seinfeld admits she’s selling, my guess is there will be plenty of people more than happy to buy.

Now watch this video of her and Gwyneth making meatballs.

Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.

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