The Antidote to Lifestyle Dictators.

While I realize there are people who worship at the altar of Martha Stewart and the kingdom she’s built, I’m not one of them.

Make no mistake: I can appreciate the work that goes into building a business into an empire; I just have no interest in doing any of it as I shy away from both excess and emulation, and hardly need to be told what a good thing is.

Same goes for the pretensions of lifestyle contender Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop, or the latest entry into the crowded Lifestyle Dictators Market, Blake Lively’s Preserve. And perhaps even more so, as at least Stewart builds on her own brands. Paltrow and Lively, however, seem bent on marketing which ever product pays them for the advertising space.

They’re selling a lifestyle and packaging some unattainable version of perfect; creating an image of life that, if you spend enough money and make enough effort, you should be somehow grateful to attain. It’s kind of like a video game but not. Instead of getting points, you buy things; the levels are financial and it’s all about accruing possessions. In case it’s not clear, the bill is yours and so’s the debt, and the time you waste playing this game is time that really could have been better spent.

It hardly ends there. The Lifestyle Dictators will tell you what to wear, how to speak, where to go, what to do, how to behave, what to say, how to decorate, and how to control everyone and everything around you in the name of supposedly good taste – as if controlling everything and everyone around you is not only acceptable but desirable- and shame on you if you don’t give a damn enough to make the effort to be as perfect.

Clearly, it’s not my thing. If it’s your thing, I feel for you – a vision of pushing boulders uphill to have them forever run you down and truckloads of debt just bolted through my brain. Not a healthy lifestyle by any means but if you want to live it that’s your choice. I can’t be bothered. I don’t need anyone telling me what’s cool to buy, eat or wear. I don’t need guidance on how to waste spend my money or which charities are the hot new thing to talk about. It’s all too pretentious, this lifestyle market of what other people dictate is fashionably acceptable. I need simple, neat and clean. I need what works for me.

Like most people, I’m busy. Although I enjoy cooking, I don’t think my life should revolve around any one thing, cooking included. I’m also allergic to complicated. This is a general rule in life but when it comes to food, even more so. If something’s complicated, I don’t have time or energy for that in my daily life so I’ve no use for it. I like the choice of planning menus and being spontaneous while keeping a budget in mind. I need something to suit my needs and Simply Recipes has everything I want and nothing I don’t.

If you can tell me none of this looks appealing, I’ll know you’re not a foodie. 

Simply Recipes is all about the food. Real food shared by real people. Food you’ll actually cook and eat. There’s no muss, no fuss and no lifestyle marketing. Nobody’s trying to sell you anything. You don’t need any specific brands to make it work and there’s not a lot of emphasis on high-end ingredients. This is food for everyone, and anyone can find something delicious and nutritious to eat here.

A fool and her money are soon parted. 

This is Paltrow’s idea of hot chocolate, filed under Warming Winter Detox. It’s not actually her recipe, mind you, but something “lent from” a Dr. Junger. Whoever he is.

The recipe includes ingredients such as almond milk, heavy coconut cream, spirulina powder, almond butter, Himalayan sea salt and mint flavored liquid chlorophyll. It also tells you which brands to buy because Goop is thoughtful about ways to spend your money and she wants you to get perfect right.

I confess I have no idea what it tastes like. When I asked around, no one else did either. Probably because Patlrow’s recipe costs an estimated £38 to make for just one serving. That’s almost $50 US or $70 Canadian in case you need to convert that to concoct Paltrow’s “pretty great kickstarter to the day when the temps drop” making it the most outrageously over-priced hot chocolate ever.

If this is Paltrow’s idea of a drink, I’m not sure anyone I’ve ever met could afford to even try an appetizer but she recommends eating like this daily. You’d have to be Bill and Melinda Gates to do it but that hardly stops Paltrow as she encourages people to spend their money to attain such status just the same.

The recipe for hot chocolate on Simply Recipes is basic. It costs less than a dollar per serving to make. They also have recommendations for variations, none of which are expensive or exotic, and all of them sound quite tasty.

Basic Hot Chocolate
4 cups of whole milk
8 ounces of chocolate (60% cacao, preferably)
3 teaspoons of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon of salt

Doesn’t that look simply delicious? Of course it does, and making it won’t launch you into debt. Which is kind of the point. I don’t know about you but I’d have a hard time relaxing into a cup of hot chocolate knowing I carried debt for trying to keep up with the Lifestyle Dictator Drama.

And drama it is. It’s so bad that even Martha Stewart had something to say about it, specifically commenting on Princess Paltrow. “She just needs to be quiet. She’s a movie star. If she were confident in her acting, she wouldn’t be trying to be Martha Stewart.” Considering Paltrow’s latest artistic offering Mortdecai bombed at the box office, panned by critics and fans alike, Martha seems on the money here.

Martha hasn’t just been around the block, frankly she may own it. That woman’s been there, done that and don’t need a t-shirt and, like I told you, I’m not even a fan. She probably owned her prison block and pens Emily Post style letters to her fellow inmates. Lesson here? Don’t mess with Martha. She probably knows when and why you put a bar of soap into a sock.

Her final observations on Paltrow were spot on. “I don’t get the sense she’s credible. She’s enthusiastic, but she’s not credible.” Damn! I admit I’d never been a fan but after that concise strike I dusted off a Martha Stewart cookbook given to me last year, made something, ate it and liked it. I did so without guilt because, as I said before. at least Martha had the guts to build her own brand instead of being advertising space for the highest bidder like Paltrow and her many clones.

Admittedly, Paltrow’s not very likable and I don’t think it’s just an image problem. Between the conscious uncoupling (the rest of us call it a separation) and her comments about working mothers having it easier in life than she has, she only seems to endear herself to that one per cent, or those who wish they were and are willing to sacrifice their self respect and credit rating to get there. But some people seem to love her brand of conceited crazy, going so far as to pay at least $50 or more to steam their vaginas to be like her. although every credible doctor on the planet stepped up to explain why this was a bad idea. What Deepak Chopra is to the easily led, Paltrow is to the desperate to matter.

Blake Lively’s no better. Her site Preserve is Goop with death spasms. A catalog of estranged horrors – some for sale, some promoted and others created and showcased – she managed to shock and anger the internet by featuring the romance of slave ownership and all the privilege it affords you in her feature spread “Allure of Antebellum.” Just because she’s a blonde haired, blue eyed woman modeling clothes on a southern plantation and penning an ode to the pre-Civil War South doesn’t make her a racist, right? She’s not waxing poetic about a past when human beings could be owned, she just thinks it was a cool time period. This from a woman who got married on a plantation for the romance of it. If this is your role model, you can probably do better but by all means enjoy that gawdy “trench cloak” for over a thousand dollars.

There’s one born every minute. But am I talking about the legions of naive fans who will do anything to emulate their idols or the women who exploit them? There seems to be a scourge of famous women, mostly actresses who aren’t acting much, who seem to be comfortable launching new careers as Lifestyle Dictators. Perhaps in an effort to stay relevant, they rent themselves out as walking billboards for the highest-paying advertiser. They depend on their long-suffering hostages long-time fandom to buy whatever it is they’re pitching – whether it’s an idea, clothes or beauty products, recipes and diets, or neolexic rephrasing of common terms to make themselves sound finer than they are.

But do we really need this? I’m thinking not. After all, if you really want someone to tell you what to do, just call your mother. She’s been dictating your life for much longer and will probably do a better (and cheaper) job of it. 

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