Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review: My Fat Dad

Summary: Dawn Lerman spent her childhood constantly hungry. She craved good food as her father, 450 pounds at his heaviest, pursued endless fad diets, from Atkins to Pritikin to all sorts of freeze-dried, saccharin-laced concoctions, and insisted the family do the same—even though no one else was overweight. Dawn’s mother, on the other hand, could barely be bothered to eat a can of tuna over the sink. She was too busy ferrying her other daughter to acting auditions and scolding Dawn for cleaning the house (“Whom are you trying to impress?”).

It was chaotic and lonely, but Dawn had someone she could turn to: her grandmother Beauty. Those days spent with Beauty, learning to cook, breathing in the scents of fresh dill or sharing the comfort of a warm pot of chicken soup, made it all bearable. Even after Dawn’s father took a prestigious ad job in New York City and moved the family away, Beauty would send a card from Chicago every week—with a recipe, a shopping list, and a twenty-dollar bill. She continued to cultivate Dawn’s love of wholesome food, and ultimately taught her how to make her own way in the world—one recipe at a time.

In My Fat Dad, Dawn reflects on her colorful family and culinary-centric upbringing, and how food shaped her connection to her family, her Jewish heritage, and herself. Humorous and compassionate, this memoir is an ode to the incomparable satisfaction that comes with feeding the ones you love. -- Berkley

Father's Day is right around the corner and I thought it would be timely to review MY FAT DAD: A MEMOIR OF FOOD, LOVE, AND FAMILY, WITH RECIPES by Dawn Lerman. Ms. Lerman is now a nutritionist and contributor to the New York Times Well Blog, and it's apparent that her childhood had a lasting effect on her choice of careers.

Dawn Lerman's father was a successful advertising executive (think Mad Men!); however, he was also a constant dieter. He loved food -- to the excess of 8000 calories a day, and he eventually reached the weight of 450 pounds. He tried every new fad diet that he could find, and he even went to Duke University for a severe weight loss program. Meanwhile, Dawn's mother couldn't care less about food. She was more interested in taking Dawn's younger sister to auditions and taking her across the country for her acting career.

Dawn was left alone a lot during her childhood. Fortunately she had a lovely grandma named Beauty. Beauty spent a great deal of time with Dawn learning to cook and appreciating the comfort quality of food. However, when Dawn's father took a job in New York City and the family had to leave Chicago (and Beauty!), Dawn found herself even lonelier. Beauty continued to send her family recipes along with shopping lists and money to purchase the items, and Dawn continued to develop a love of food and cooking.

I really enjoyed MY FAT DAD. It was a wonderful coming-of-age story about a young girl's love of food and family and how it eventually played into her future as a nutritionist. I loved the author's storytelling/writing as well as how she incorporated so many great recipes into the book. I especially liked how these recipes mirrored the food and cooking she mentioned in each of the chapters.

I found Ms. Lerman's story to be very interesting. While this book will appeal to foodies, it will also appeal to fans of memoirs. Ms. Lerman's story was touching. She had an interesting (and sometimes sad) childhood with a very busy father and a distant mother. Much of the family time and efforts revolved around her father's various diets; and as strange as many of them were, Ms. Lerman did develop an interest in healthy living and nutrition as a result.

One thing that made me sad about Ms. Lerman's childhood was how interested her mother was in her younger sister's life and acting career. I credit Ms. Lerman for being totally supportive of her sister -- she wasn't the slightest bit resentful. Her sister did end up having a fair amount of success as a childhood actress, and as a result, her mother was absent from her life much of the time. Dawn was left to her own devices in New York City and even started going to bars and nightclubs at a young age. I think that Ms. Lerman was forced to grow up much quicker than normal kids, but she never complained or portrayed herself as a victim.

Ms. Lerman's knowledge as a nutritionist definitely came in handy when her father was diagnosed with cancer. Upon her suggestion, he eliminated many foods from his diet including dairy and meat. She also incorporated some healthy foods into his eating regime including vegetables and algae. They credit his healthy eating as the reason he is still alive today... and it does make sense.

Probably what I appreciated the most about MY FAT DAD is that the book was a celebration of family and food. I could definitely relate having a loving grandmother who looked at food as a way to please her family. Some of my most treasured memories of my grandmothers involve food and learning their recipes. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that many readers will enjoy Beauty's recipes and overall outlook on life.

Overall, MY FAT DAD is an entertaining novel about one woman's love affair with food and healthy eating. Highly recommended... especially as Father's Day is only a few days away.

Thanks to the author and publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I always wonder how such opposites attract. You know me and memoirs - this sounds right up my alley.