Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My Fat Dad: Book and Nosh Review + Giveaway

[Giveaway at the end of the post!]

I grew up in a house where the Diabetic Diet reigned supreme. I remember measuring cups of green beans hitting the plate off and on my entire childhood, peppered with frequent visits to Red Lobster (mom's favorite for holidays and birthdays), Benitos (a Mexican restaurant) for piled-high plates of beans and cheese, and McDonalds and Sonic for burgers, fries, and drinks with my father's beloved crushed ice. Everyone in my immediate family has battled with weight and diet pretty much our entire lives, and (except for me who has been privileged to always be on the more voluptuous side) has swung between thinness in their younger days to larger waistbands in their 20s and beyond.

My mom and dad never went to the dieting extremes that Dawn Lerman's father did in My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes, but I can relate to growing up in an environment where food obsession was manifest in countless ways — both constructive and destructive.

When I was contacted about reviewing My Fat Dad, I jumped at the chance because from a quick look it seemed like something that would really resonate. Although it became clear that Lerman and I didn't grow up with the same relationship with food, I have to say it was a really fascinating and entertaining read. For the first few chapters I was confused, as Lerman focused largely on her tenuous and tentative relationship with her mom, but as the book went on I understood why she wrote the book the way she did.

Both of her parents are Jewish, and both grew up in a post-Holocaust world with parents uniquely obsessed with classic Jewish food. However, whereas her actress mom grew up with an "eat to live" mindset, her advertising guru of a father grew up with a "live to eat" mindset. The author, Lerman, subsequently found herself obsessed with food — cooking it, baking it, understanding how it fits into specific diets, how it could save her dad, how it could comfort her sister, and more.

Unlike me, however, Lerman managed to end up with a pretty healthy relationship with food, thanks to her grandmother "Beauty," who taught her how to make just about anything and everything. Lerman ended up seeing the world through food. I didn't learn how to make anything growing up, so my relationship with food has always been tense, with binges (and starvation periods when I was a teen) and purges of the things that I love. It wasn't until I was in my mid-20s that I started to really explore and understand food in the way that Lerman did her whole life. I learned that steak didn't have to be overcooked, vegetables didn't always come out of a can, and the microwave wasn't necessarily my best friend. (Honestly, I think becoming kosher saved me and my health, because fast food was my BFF most of my life.)

Food, for Lerman, was a source of nurturing and healing when it came to her relationship with her parents and sister and grandparents, and that's something I so admire. I honestly think that the more a child grows up understanding and experimenting with food, the more healthy their overall relationship with food and the more there is a balance between "live to eat" and "eat to live," and I think Lerman's a really powerful example of that reality.

My Fat Dad really takes you on a food journey, both her obese father's journey and battle with food in the fast-paced world of advertising and her own journey to understand and explore all of the food options the world has to offer.

The most unique thing about this book is that each chapter ends with a few recipes based on conversations and events in the chapter. Lerman has created a cookbook based on stories, which is, let's be honest, what healthy relationship with food looks like (if years of watching countless hours of the Food Network has taught me anything). She has recipes for everyone, from a classic borscht to a No Bake Pecan Pie and Healing Mushroom Miso Soup.

I chose to focus on Peanut Butter Love—the Best Flourless Blondie recipe from a chapter where Lerman talks about her relationship with her sister and how she used to bring or send treats to her sister, who was traveling and acting in "Annie" (because their mom wasn't focused on food/treats). Lerman made blondies and other sweet treats for her sister, and that was one of the ways that the two of them were able to bond across the miles between them. Here's the recipe (and they really are to die for):

  • 16 ounces natural, no sugar added peanut butter
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup original soy milk or nondairy milk of choice ( I use ones that have about 7 grams of sugar per serving)
  • 1 ripe banana, mushed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup dark, semisweet chocolate chips
  • Butter or oil for greasing the pan
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, maple syrup, milk, and mushed banana. Mush it all up and combine well. Then mix in the beaten eggs, vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Mix together until well blended and smooth. Stir in half the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a well-greased 8-inch-square Pyrex dish. Scatter the remaining chips on top.

Bake for 55 minutes, checking after 15 minutes to make sure the edges do not get too brown. If the top looks very brown, cover with foil and bake for the remaining 40 minutes. Cool and serve.

Note: Mine got a little too brown because I got distracted with the baby ... I recommend cooking for 15 minutes and covering with foil for blondies that aren't so brown. 

GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post and let me know what your relationship with food was like growing up. I'll pick one winner at random on July 19, 2016, to receive a copy of this book. 

Rules: Open to U.S. residents only. Must comment to be entered.