Our relationship with food starts at a young age, but spans throughout our lives, shaping who we are as people. What we eat, and what we will enjoy throughout our lives, is shaped early on by the foods we eat and are raised on. This is for better or for worst – and precisely what Dawn Lerman teaches us in her new memoir, My Fat Dad.

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Dawn Lerman, author of The New York Times Well Blog,  lays out her complicated childhood with the clarity of an adult having survived from the other side. She describes her immediate family’s peculiar relationships with food – her father overweight and constantly attempting a new diet, dragging his family along with him. At the age of five, Dawn living on shakes as her father tried the liquid Metrecal Diet, and then only apples when he was on the Israeli Army Diet. Her mother’s relationship with food was no better – Dawn recalls only ever seeing her mother eat one meal a day, and that was a can of tuna fish over the kitchen sink. Where you might think that a child raised like that would have no love for food, Dawn developed a passion for it. This passion was nurtured by her grandmother, Beauty. Beauty was the only real cook in the family, and Dawn remembers vividly the time she spent in Beauty’s kitchen, helping her cook, or simply just eating. This relationship, unlike the one she had with her mother, was loving and warm, and helped propel Dawn’s love for all things food forward throughout the memoir.

But not only is My Fat Dad a story of a complicated and the love for food, but a cookbook as well. Lerman not only describes the wonderful foods of her childhood, but provides the recipes she lays out each chapter. Lerman paints a picture, for instance, of her grandmother Beauty’s Chicken Soup with Fluffy Matzo Balls – the secret being chicken drippings and seltzer – and just when you reach the end of the chapter and are craving the food, Lerman surprises you! Every chapter ends with recipes of some of the food mentioned in the chapter. Lerman goes above and beyond to recreate these dishes, and honestly, after finishing the chapter, I’d often want to wander into my kitchen and recreate the recipes of her childhood. I won’t lie – I did try The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie with the Cream Cheese Dough. Amazing.

As Dawn recalls her grandmother Beauty saying: “I honor tradition and those who came before me, and I want to pass the history of the food on to you. I can find my heritage in a bowl of soup.” And, with Dawn’s guidance, she lays out the same belief. With stories, laughter, and recipes, she tells the story of her family in an amazingly inventive and delicious memoir.

To give you a taste of the book, we’ve included one of my favorite recipes of book, Peanut Butter Love – The Best Flourless Brownies.  (makes 12 squares)

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INGREDIENTS

  • 16 ounces natural, no-sugar-added peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup original soy milk or nondairy milk of choice (I use ones that have about 7 grams of sugar per serving)
  • 1 ripe banana mashed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon backing soda
  • 3/4 cup dark, semisweet chocolate chips
  • Butter or oil, for greasing the pan

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, maple syrup, milk, and mashed banana. Mush it all up and combine well.
  3. Then mix in the beaten eggs, vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Mix together until well blended and smooth.
  4. Stir in half the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour the batter into a well-greased 8-inch-square Pyrex dish.
  6. Scatter the remaining chips on top.
  7. 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 back for the remaining 40 minutes.
  8. Cool and serve.

 

Recipes from MY FAT DAD: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes

By Dawn Lerman

Berkley Books/September 2015

For more delicious recipes check out our Food & Drink section.

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