My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family by Dawn Lerman – 336 pages
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. 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.
My Review: 4.5 stars
My Fat Dad is a fascinating look into a home where food almost became another family member. At times, based on which member of the household you asked; it was craved, loved, abandoned, hated, needed, ignored, tolerated or taken for granted.
In this typical dysfunctional family of the 1970s, it wasn’t the usual issues of money or work that weighed on this family; instead it was food. The author’s emotionally distant mother thought of food purely as sustenance whereas her father was in a love-hate relationship with it as his weight ballooned. It was the author’s grandmother, lovingly called Beauty, who filled her with affection and attention and taught her about the wonders of food. With Beauty as a role model, Dawn became immersed in both helping her dad diet and feeding her family healthily.
Many ethnicities and religions use food as a way of showing love and as traditions for holidays and the like. The Jewish people are no exception to this and as Beauty taught Dawn to make many Jewish specialties that became a peaceful balm to her quiet soul. Food was the outlet she needed to grow both physically and emotionally. I loved that Dawn shared so many family recipes. She gave a bit of her story and herself by sharing them with the reader.
The writing is fast paced and her continuous references to the 70s kept me completely engaged. From the hair, to the music, to sleep away camp, it was a blast from the past. Living in the 70s with out much parental guidance could’ve led Dawn down the wrong path. Seriously, hanging out at Studio 54 when she was 15 years old had me in a panic, however thanks to her steadfast love from Beauty, she had the tools to go in the right direction.
Quotes I liked:
The closest distance between two people is a good laugh.”