"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"If you're born round, you never die square."

So I don't really understand why Bravo feels the need to toy with my heart so, but there was no new episode of Top Chef last week--instead there was a reunion of "fan favorite" cheftestants from past seasons (including my favorite, Carla--Hootie-Hoo!). They are really stretching this season out. And it annoys me.

Since I don't have any cheftestant fails to talk about now, I figured I'd instead briefly talk about Born Round, Frank Bruni's memoir that I recently read---and loved. Frank Bruni was, until recently, the restaurant critic for the New York Times, and I've always loved his reviews. They're so descriptive and funny. (You can check out an archive of his articles here.)

Fank's memoir was very funny, but also very honest--sometimes painfully so. He was a chubby kid who has struggled with his weight and his relationship with food all his life, from the time he was a two-year-old baby bulimic. (Really. You gotta read it to believe it.) The journey he went on to become a food critic (a position he seriously debated taking because of his food issues) is touching and I could really relate to a lot of the things he said. I've also had a lifelong struggle with food, a love-hate relationship from the time I was a child. I've done fad diets (I, like Frank, tried the Atkins diet), taken pills (sometimes with terrifying, wake-up-at-night-with-chest-pains results), gone on spurts of obsessive exercise only to get bored and give up two weeks later (and did I mention that during a lot of those obsessive exercise periods my appetite increased and I ate more?), and even did Weight Watchers, where I lost over 25 pounds, which I promptly regained when I moved to Boston and got too busy being a grad student to track how many points I was eating a day. I've dealt with years of emotional and mental abuse from a father who cannot tolerate the fact that I weight more than 130 pounds. (A weight that is actually underweight for my height, but this doesn't seem to fase the man.) I have been an emotional eater most of my life. Loneliness and boredom led to sneaking snacks, anxiety and stress led to binging, being reprimanded by my parents growing up to clean my plate created a compulsion for always being in the Clean Plate Club that I am still trying to break. I am still trying to figure out sane eating. I am still trying to figure out eating that doesn't leave me weak and bloated with remorse when I'm done. I am still trying to un-fuck myself up. 

So if you've ever had moments where you lose a staring match against a cookie, Bruni's memoir will make you laugh, perhaps tear up a little (he IS Italian, so there IS that crazy family element, complete with Italian grandma who proves her love for you by stuffing you with food like you're a turkey), and it will definitely give you something to chew on.

Jeremy's Italian grandmother apparently still to this day (she's 92) says, "You don't have to be hungry to eat," proof that food is truly the glue that binds people together in so many cultures. While I appreciate the loving element of that sentiment, it's definitely something I need to learn to make peace with. Reading about Bruni's take with the same problem made me feel a little less alone.


Lauren said...


Thank you for sharing that. I read an excerpt from Bruni's memoir on the NYT website, which was both funny and heartbreaking, but your description of your relationship with food (and your father's attitude toward your eating) was even more moving. I can only imagine how hard it was to grow up hearingo criticism multiple times a day.

I do agree with you that food is what glues people together; probably my favorite thing to do is break bread with my friends. Food is what we all need, so why would we be ashamed of something so essential? I love food, I love my friends, and I intend to combine the two as often as possible for the rest of my days.

In conclusion: let's go eat some fuckin' pasta.


Raquelle said...

Hey Almost-Twin,

I didn't realize that your dad gave you such a hard time with your weight. :-( I think us Latinas are just naturally curvy. I could never get to 130 pounds even if I tried! Besides, stick figures are boring. It's nice to have something to look at.

My parents way over-encouraged me to be part of the Clean Plate Club and I'm trying to break out of that too. It's difficult to eat a plate of food and leave something behind. Because what about the starving children in Africa?! I've tried to break from that but what I end up doing is just serving myself less food or splitting the meal with someone else or saving for leftovers.

Relationships with food & eating are difficult! I've had so many stomach issues that now when I cook big meals, I don't even want to eat them. I'm scared I'll just get sick.

I hope we can get together and cook sometime and maybe share some recipes. I thought of you when I made Arroz con pollo because I wonder if you make it. And I still haven't seen those tuna-stuffed olives anywhere! I want to try them.

The Other Raquel