Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Read/ Listen: Born Round: The Secret History of a Full Time Eater by Frank Bruni

The title comes from a phrase Frank Bruni's grandmother often used to say, " Born round, you don't die square."  Bruni had the enviable job of New York Times restaurant critic, but he has spent his entire life obsessing about food.  Readers expecting a foodie memoir similar to Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl (another NYT restaurant critic) will be surprised by this book.  Born Round is more about Bruni's Italian-American family and his struggles with his weight than describing incredible meals at the French Laundry or hobnobbing with celebrities.  Bruni's fraternal grandmother came from Southern Italy and used food as a way to demonstrate her love for her family.  For his father, food was about demonstrating his affluence and competing with his siblings.  His mother, a WASP who nonetheless became a skilled Italian cook, had a relationship with food that more complicated- she frequently dieted but spent days preparing lavish meals for her family.   Like his mother, Bruni has a difficult relationship with food, spending much of the book alternating between overindulging and depriving himself.  Readers who have struggled with eating disorders or yo-yo dieting will relate to Bruni troubles, including bouts of bulimia and abusing laxatives. 

I'm not a huge fan of diet memoirs: dieting is terrible enough on its own, who wants to read about someone else doing it?  However, Bruni's memoir is only in part about dieting, and it's relatable, moving, and hilarious. You really get to know Bruni's family and their quirks; for instance, his grandmother spray paints a phone gold and leaves it that way even though the paint rubs off on the hands of person using it.  Bruni's stories about his compulsive behavior, including delaying dates with guys for weeks so he can loose a few pounds first, are reminiscent of Dave Sedaris. This is an excellent memoir that touches on issues of culture and food.

Recommended for fans of: Dave Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs.

Read the book.
Find it in the catalog.

Listen to the book.
Find it in the catalog.