Over six long years ago, on the eve Osama bin Laden died, I began the Danny/Gwyneth Project. Nursing a broken heart and a simmering hatred for my shitty job in Portland, I purchased Gwyneth Paltrow’s first cookbook, My Father’s Daughter (alt title: Me), and made a solemn vow that I would cook every single recipe in that damn book within 9 months, a la the Julie/Julia Project. And then, within a matter of months, I got a job in New York, moved to Brooklyn, and promptly gave up on the project. I didn’t have time to schlep around Manhattan desperately searching for spelt flour and duck bacon, not when I was 23 and in the big city and gay and single and finally had a decent job offering me an actual salary that let me buy drinks and good food and more drinks!
So what’s changed after over half a decade to summon this project back from the dead? Well, not too much, quite frankly. I still work in advertising, and still don’t know if that’s what I want to do with my life. Bark Antony is still alive, despite his best efforts. Somehow, he’s 9 years old. Somehow, I’m 30.
A short scroll down this page and I find myself 23 years old again, new to New York, freshly out of the closet. I can barely look at those old posts, if I’m being honest. I try to read my old writing and cringe and start sweating and almost immediately close the tab. Frankly, it’s unreadable to me, and I’m astonished I’ve let it stand on the internet for so long. Why was I blogging about such personal things in my early 20s! Even the post I once lauded as my “favorite” and “best” is, with the distance of half a decade, full of wretched writing and the most juvenile pining for someone who, it turns out, was really, truly terrible for me. (Folks, take it from me: never, ever blog.)
This is all to say: we were all so young once, huh? Oh well.
But for the past few months (years, if we’re being honest), I’ve felt the inexplicable pull at unexpected moments to finally finish this Project. I’d be riding the subway, minding my business, trying to avoid eye contact with the 40 other people jostling to hold onto the same pole, and wham — I’d get the strong urge to hunt down an obscure Israeli spice that costs $15. Or I’d be at a bar, ordering another round of drinks for a couple friends, and holy shit — I’d get an irresistible desire to be in my kitchen, trying to figure out what to do with seven different kinds of flour.
When I’m honest with myself, the biggest headaches from Gwyneth were always the most fun, provided I didn’t get too wrapped up in the time-wasting, money-burning, hair-pulling of it all. And I did get some value out of the Project. I killed my first live animals for the purpose of eating just because Gwyneth told me to! (Which reminds me: by the end of this first cookbook, I will have to stab a live lobster in the face. Can’t wait.) I became a go-to-guy for all things duck bacon! (Logging into this blog for the first time in years — after resetting the password I had long forgotten — I discovered an average of 20 people a day still show up here after googling some form of “duck bacon where.” Sorry, folks, I still don’t know duck bacon where.) And, damnit, I have even found myself returning to a couple of her recipes again and again. (Her veggie chili is actually very good, you should know.)
Over the years, too, Gwyneth has stayed in the news, most recently for reasons she may not be too happy about. As one of her earliest and most-devoted online critics, I felt the need to continue and finish my quest, to experience the act of creating every single one of her recipes.
Then, as if sensing my teeter on the edge and knowing the irresistible draw of a trilogy, Gwyneth debuted her third cookbook, throwing in a taunting title just to seal the deal.
It’s All Easy? Fine, Gwyneth. Let’s see how easy it all really is.
This is it. One man. Three cookbooks (well, more like 2 ¼ cookbooks at this point). Hopefully finishing this never-ending torment before I carry it into my 40s. Come back tomorrow for the beginning of the (long, long, still so fucking far-off) end. May god have mercy on my soul.
Oh! One more thing: if I’m going to survive this reboot, I’m going to need an outlet for non-Gwyneth Paltrow writing. So I’ve started a TinyLetter called DannyLetter, because I’m original. This will show up at random points in your inbox and will contain writing from me on whatever the hell I feel like. The first one is already out, in which I begin to talk about my trip to North Korea last year! You can read that one here, and you can sign up at tinyletter.com/DannyLetter