Nutrition expert and New York Times Well Blog contributor Lerman pens an intimate memoir about the intersections of intense family relationships and food, dieting, and healthy eating.
As a child, the author’s relationships with her overweight father and distant mother were difficult. Eventually, she realized that her father’s ravenous appetite—he often consumed 8,000 calories per day—was a disease he couldn’t control. Lerman’s mother, a frustrated actress, had no desire to be saddled with housewifely tasks. The author’s grandmother Beauty, however, showered her with love and attention and lots of home-cooked meals. “In her arms,” writes Lerman, “I was never hungry for food, love, or affection. She was my mentor and my savior—saving my life, spoonful by spoonful.” The author tracks her emotional and culinary life as the family moved from Chicago to New York as well as the transition in her relationship with her father when her younger sister’s burgeoning acting career took off. Lerman also chronicles her parents’ divorce, her teenage years, and her father’s bout with cancer. Always entranced by health-food stores, the author began developing a healthy eating regime for her father, who, always trying one extreme diet after another, was fighting for his health. He eliminated dairy, meat, alcohol, and caffeine, and he began making “anti-cancer soup with shiitake, portabella and maitake mushrooms.” He also stocked up on fresh vegetables, blue-green algae, and fermented foods. Throughout the book, Lerman links food to physical and emotional well-being—e.g., a meal of white fish and steamed leeks topped with lemon slices was “calming and almost euphoric.” During an encounter with a guest who offered Lerman a piece of macrobiotic apple pie while espousing a vegetarian lifestyle, the author’s mind opened up to new ways of living and eating, and she relates them smoothly to readers.
Laced with love, family dramas, recipes, and the pangs of growing up, Lerman’s memoir is a satisfying treat.