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My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes

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From the author of the New York Times Well Blog series, My Fat Dad Every story and every memory from my childhood is attached to food… 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 From the author of the New York Times Well Blog series, My Fat Dad Every story and every memory from my childhood is attached to food… 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 (“Whom are you trying to impress?”). 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. In My Fat Dad, Dawn reflects on her colorful family and culinary-centric upbringing, and how food shaped her connection to her family, her Jewish heritage, and herself. Humorous and compassionate, this memoir is an ode to the incomparable satisfaction that comes with feeding the ones you love.


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From the author of the New York Times Well Blog series, My Fat Dad Every story and every memory from my childhood is attached to food… 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 From the author of the New York Times Well Blog series, My Fat Dad Every story and every memory from my childhood is attached to food… 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 (“Whom are you trying to impress?”). 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. In My Fat Dad, Dawn reflects on her colorful family and culinary-centric upbringing, and how food shaped her connection to her family, her Jewish heritage, and herself. Humorous and compassionate, this memoir is an ode to the incomparable satisfaction that comes with feeding the ones you love.

30 review for My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes

  1. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)

    This wonderfully written memoir is an honest perspective of the author’s life while living with a father trying to lose weight. Dawn was raised by absentee parents in the ‘70’s. While living in Chicago, she spent a large part of her early childhood with her grandmother, Beauty. Her grandmother made her feel special by giving her the attention she needed while passing on family recipes. At the same time, her mother was not interested in cooking or building a meaningful relationship. The emotional This wonderfully written memoir is an honest perspective of the author’s life while living with a father trying to lose weight. Dawn was raised by absentee parents in the ‘70’s. While living in Chicago, she spent a large part of her early childhood with her grandmother, Beauty. Her grandmother made her feel special by giving her the attention she needed while passing on family recipes. At the same time, her mother was not interested in cooking or building a meaningful relationship. The emotional fabric of the book is the interaction between family members. It is well executed with excellent character development. It is the story of Dawn’s childhood into adulthood with her family. I enjoyed the descriptions from the 1970’s that related to food, clothing, hairstyles and toys. When I read that as a child she wanted a Baby Alive doll, I could completely relate. This made me feel very connected to her life. The insecurities and worries she describes when she was a teenager are woven beautifully into her writing. This did not turn into an angry book or rant when sadness or worry was conveyed. This book reminded me how different parenting is today than it was in the 1970’s. As a baby boomer it was easy to relate to the people and settings. I thank the author for allowing us into her past life and sharing her story along with some excellent recipes. I am giving away a copy of the book - ends 8/25 https://www.facebook.com/suzyapproved...# There is a current giveaway of the book on goodreads until 8/29! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/sh...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    I wavered between laughing at the craziness that was the author's life with her dad and feeling sad for her, because at times I felt her parents were too self absorbed. That changed when I read this comment from Ms. Lerman on another author's Facebook page, "We often write to release what we can not fix, and in the process of telling our story we find new family and friends along the way who identify, sympathize, and maybe help transform our hearts." I think the author Dawn Lerman made peace wit I wavered between laughing at the craziness that was the author's life with her dad and feeling sad for her, because at times I felt her parents were too self absorbed. That changed when I read this comment from Ms. Lerman on another author's Facebook page, "We often write to release what we can not fix, and in the process of telling our story we find new family and friends along the way who identify, sympathize, and maybe help transform our hearts." I think the author Dawn Lerman made peace with her childhood or at the very least she became stronger because of it. If you grew up in the 1970's this book will invoke wonderful memories of that time. Wacky Pack stickers anyone? My mom struggled with her weight when I was a kid and so much of this story rang true for that reason. I went with my mom to TOPS meetings and Weight Watchers weigh-ins. I recall her weighing her food on a scale in the kitchen and forbidding me to eat her Ayds weight loss candy. I learned many years later when I was an adult she even tried amphetamines, popular at the time. One thing was for sure Dawn and her grandmother, Beauty, had a special relationship. The book is filled with her recipes and some of Dawn's favorites, as well.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lynda Loigman

    This is a warm and engaging memoir that takes the reader through the author's childhood joys and traumas with family and food. Some of the most heartwarming chapters describe sleepovers and cooking sessions with the author's grandmother, Beauty. These are wonderfully written essays that brought me back to my own childhood and my experiences with my own mother and grandmother. Dawn Lerman does a fantastic job of making the time period (the 1970's) come alive not only by describing the popular foo This is a warm and engaging memoir that takes the reader through the author's childhood joys and traumas with family and food. Some of the most heartwarming chapters describe sleepovers and cooking sessions with the author's grandmother, Beauty. These are wonderfully written essays that brought me back to my own childhood and my experiences with my own mother and grandmother. Dawn Lerman does a fantastic job of making the time period (the 1970's) come alive not only by describing the popular foods and recipes of the era (the recipe for sweet and sour meatballs in the book is the same as my mom's from the 70's), but with her descriptions of the music, the clothes and the popular images of the time. The writing is funny and smart, and the author perfectly captures the worries, insecurities and triumphs of both early childhood and the teenage years. Behind every chapter there is tremendous insight and wisdom regarding parenthood, family relationships, the reasons why people overheat, and the hunger so many of us experience that stems from loneliness, disappointment and the plain old stress of everyday life. This book is not just for people who struggle with weight or eating issues or who have family members with these issues -- it is for everyone who has ever struggled with anything. The author's compassion for family members and her ability to forgive is, for me, inspirational. This was a joy to read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Letty

    I enjoy reading memoirs very much, especially food memoirs, so when I received a copy of My Fat Dad, I was very excited to read it. This book did not disappoint and it's going on my "Favorites" list for this year. Wonderfully written by Dawn Lermen, it's not only a story about her dad's struggle to lose weight for many years by trying many fad diets, it's also about how Dawn learned about food and cooking healthy meals in an attempt to help her dad. What impressed me the most was that she learne I enjoy reading memoirs very much, especially food memoirs, so when I received a copy of My Fat Dad, I was very excited to read it. This book did not disappoint and it's going on my "Favorites" list for this year. Wonderfully written by Dawn Lermen, it's not only a story about her dad's struggle to lose weight for many years by trying many fad diets, it's also about how Dawn learned about food and cooking healthy meals in an attempt to help her dad. What impressed me the most was that she learned how to create and change recipes and cook delicious meals at such a young age! Her mother was not a cook and thought T.V. dinners and meals from boxes were good meals. So with the guidance of her wonderful grandmother Beauty, she learned to cook and really taste the food she she was creating and eating. In reading this memoir, it made me think about how I didn't grow up in the kitchen with my mom or any grandmother and wishing I would have had the type of relationship that Dawn had with Beauty. There were a lot of packaged meals and T.V. dinners when I was growing up as well. The book flowed and kept my interest right until the end. It's a beautiful, heartwarming story. I enjoyed it tremendously and highly recommend. And the plus side is that after each chapter there are recipes included. I'm looking forward to making many of those recipes!!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie Tanner

    Disclosure. ...I was sent a copy of this book by the author/PR team for review. At times the title seems a little misleading. Lots of the stories involved her Dad or were a result of her Dad, but the main content of the chapters were her life. I did like how each chapter ended with recipes and they were all connected to the experience just shared by the author. Sweet book with another reminder to love yourself and eat for health not to be on the latest and greatest health kick. I also appreciate Disclosure. ...I was sent a copy of this book by the author/PR team for review. At times the title seems a little misleading. Lots of the stories involved her Dad or were a result of her Dad, but the main content of the chapters were her life. I did like how each chapter ended with recipes and they were all connected to the experience just shared by the author. Sweet book with another reminder to love yourself and eat for health not to be on the latest and greatest health kick. I also appreciate the conversation charts in the back. I'd say my rating is actually between a 3 and 4. Having read similar things in the past it is a 3, if you've never read something like it and the recipes are all new and exciting it could be a 4 for that reader.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dolores

    I know I'm in the minority for being upset by this memoir. It was certainly well-written and very interesting....it made me feel like rushing to the kitchen to try some of the yummy recipes! But I was horrified by the dysfunctional family life and child neglect, and amazed that the author somehow survived to adulthood. The compassion and wisdom of Beauty, her grandmother, must have been what saved her. I know I'm in the minority for being upset by this memoir. It was certainly well-written and very interesting....it made me feel like rushing to the kitchen to try some of the yummy recipes! But I was horrified by the dysfunctional family life and child neglect, and amazed that the author somehow survived to adulthood. The compassion and wisdom of Beauty, her grandmother, must have been what saved her.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    What a lovely book! Author Dawn Lerman weaves a deceptively simple tale of family, longing, and self-discovery through love and food. Left to her own devices by her busy, bohemian family, she finds the connection she craves through exchanging recipes with the Jewish Grandmother she left behind in Chicago. Plus great recipes!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Linda Zimmerman

    I loved this book. Forget that I'm Dawn's cousin and Aunt Jeannie is my mom. Dawn is a terrific writer who can tell a great story . This book will tear at your heartstrings, make you laugh and will also make your very hungry. I loved this book. Forget that I'm Dawn's cousin and Aunt Jeannie is my mom. Dawn is a terrific writer who can tell a great story . This book will tear at your heartstrings, make you laugh and will also make your very hungry.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Guidarini

    Nutritionist, New York Times blogger and author Dawn Lerman grew up consumed by food, witness to her 450-lb. father’s see-saw obsession with diets. A man controlled by his own battles with eating, her father’s struggles took a toll, forcing his family onto the roller coaster of fad diets and an overall unhealthy attitude toward food. Yet, no one else in the family was overweight, a minor miracle. If it’s true the kitchen is at the heart of the traditional home, Lerman’s family’s adversarial relat Nutritionist, New York Times blogger and author Dawn Lerman grew up consumed by food, witness to her 450-lb. father’s see-saw obsession with diets. A man controlled by his own battles with eating, her father’s struggles took a toll, forcing his family onto the roller coaster of fad diets and an overall unhealthy attitude toward food. Yet, no one else in the family was overweight, a minor miracle. If it’s true the kitchen is at the heart of the traditional home, Lerman’s family’s adversarial relationship with food was at odds with their family’s rich Jewish heritage, filled with meals to comfort the soul. Fortunately, Dawn’s maternal grandmother, Beauty, came to her rescue, both in providing a sense of love and stability and teaching her how to cook wonderfully flavorful, traditional dishes, essentially rescuing her from starvation and a childhood deprived of much in the way of nutrition. Even more powerfully, Beauty’s legacy set Dawn on the path that would carry her into her life’s calling, founding Magnificent Mommies, a company providing nutrition education to students, teachers and corporations. To read about Beauty is to love her; she was the sort of grandmother we all wish we’d had, or at least I do. Coming from a family fragmented, cut adrift from extended relations, I grew up in an environment devoid of nutritious foods. The Deep South formed my heritage, a world filled with biscuits and fried chicken and heavy, carbohydrate-dripping meals held together by animal fat. Though not as extreme, my own mother fad dieted her way through most of my life, reinforcing my own love-hate battle with food. And, ultimately, I never learned to cook, having watched my mother pull pre-packaged foods out of the freezer, plopping Banquet fried chicken, instant mashed potatoes and canned green beans in front of us, more often than not. Had I been blessed with such a grandmother as Lerman’s, I can only imagine how different my relationship with food could have been. Thanks to her maternal grandmother, by high school Dawn had acquired a vast repertoire of dishes she’d become expert at creating. Her mother and little sister away, her sister performing in a production of Annie, she was finally able to introduce her father to the wonder of home-cooked meals. Though her father had, by this point, lost a staggering 175 lbs, the weight was beginning to creep back up on him, as it almost inevitably does. And for a while it was great, cooking for her father. Then, he began drifting away again, leaving her alone while he spent more and more time at work. Undeterred, she kept studying and practicing her culinary art, turning what could have been seen as a failure to convince her father into totally embracing a healthy way of eating into a test of her convictions, a test she passed with flying colors. My Fat Dad is essentially a collection of essays, columns about aspects of Dawn Lerman’s life. Each is accompanied by recipes, a combination of hearty meals and nutritionally-packed dishes, all of them unintimidating foods the average reader would feel comfortable making in their own kitchen. That’s part of what makes the book so wonderful, not only is it the story of one very determined woman’s path from misery to a successful career as a nutritionist, it’s also a cookbook filled with the love her maternal grandmother instilled in her, which she, in turn, passes along. It’s like one big group hug, from Beauty to Dawn to us. Dawn was kind enough to agree to answer a few interview questions for me: 1). What were your concerns in writing a book about your family? Were there discussions about what was off limits? Whenever you’re writing about family members or real people, there is always a fear that you will offend someone or feelings will be hurt. It is hard not to censor yourself when you know the people who you are writing about will read it. But in reading my book, “My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family, With Recipes.” , you will see very little is off limits in my family. And it turns out both my parents loved the book. My dad, always an ad man, remarked, “You’ve come a long way baby”. My mom, the ultimate stage mother shares passages from the book where ever she goes. She just wishes there were more pictures of her in the center of the book. 2). At what age did you become interested in writing and what inspired you to write this book? I have written for as long as I can remember. I used to carry around a little journal and pretend I was Harriet the Spy. Writing was my escape from my chaotic childhood. It was a place to put my feelings. It transported me into a world where I felt safe. I originally set out to write a health book for kids about snacking. While I was compiling recipes, I realized that each one of them had a memory attached to it. The memory was as important as the recipe itself—it was the people I was with at the time; where I was when I tasted it; and the smells that made it so important. 3). Who are some of the biggest creative influences in your life, in writing and the culinary arts? Whom do you admire? In terms of food memoirs, I read every one of Ruth Reichl’s books. I loved how she weaved food into the tapestry of her life. In terms of straight memoirs, I adored Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and as a child, I must have read Anne Frank a hundred times. 4). How would you sum up your philosophy toward food and nutrition? What message are you hoping to get across? I hope my story helps families create happy memories around food. I also hope that “food” is seen to be more than just the macronutrients, protein, fat, or carbs from which it is composed. I have always had a passion for taking any family recipe and making it healthier—I hope readers can see that good food can taste good and you don’t need to give up your traditional favorites if you are willing to exchange a few ingredients (There is an index at the back of My Fat Dad that explains what you can use as a substitute for most of the basics that go into every recipe). 5). What are Americans doing wrong in relation to healthy eating? What’s the biggest, most prevalent issue we should be paying attention to? As a holistic nutritionist, I believe it is important to know your client before making any blanket statement. However, I do think drinking beverages other than soda, like Green Tea is important. Also, people should try to eat simple, filling meals and fill up at least half of their plates with veggies. Finally, as my daughter says, if it has a commercial attached to it, it usually is not good—this goes for processed foods, especially. How many commercials do we see for kale or strawberries? 6). How has your Jewish heritage influenced your relationship with food? What’s singular about this particular ethnicity? I think Ray Romano who blurbed my book said it best“ Dawn Lerman grew up Jewish in the 70’s. I grew up Italian. Might sound different, but for the most part, it’s the same. Especially when it comes to food. The philosophy was simple, food = love. My Fat Dad hilariously and poignantly captures that essence .Whether you’re Italian, Jewish, or anything else you can relate to how family, food, and the love of both affect how we grow up, and live our life. Mangia!”—Ray Romano, Emmy award-winning actor No matter what your culture is food that is past down through generations and cooked with love creates memories and lasting nourishment. My grandmother Beauty would say, “I can find my heritage in a bowl of chicken soup.” 7). What’s your best advice to busy households juggling family, career and trying to eat healthily? Try to pick one day a week like a Sunday and do a shopping trip as a family. Go to either a grocery store or a farmer’s market and pick what is in season. Then together get creative and plan your meals for the week. A big batch of soup, a roasted chicken, a batch of roasted veggies, some chopped vegetables for dipping can help you avoid eating fast food. Being prepared with snacks and easy to make meals will set you up for success. 8). What’s up next for you, project-wise? My main focus is really what it always has been, trying to teach kids about the importance of proper nutrition and teaching them how to cook. I am in the process of writing a cookbook for kids. 9). Finally, if you had to choose a favorite dish – either a go-to comfort dish our personal specialty – what would it be? I think it would have to be my grandmother’s chicken soup. It was in her kitchen, inhaling the smells of fresh dill that I learned what it felt like to be loved and nourished. As for baked goods, it would have to be my grandmother’s banana oatmeal cookies that I have given a little makeover to –adding flax seeds and coconut oil. Dawn Lerman is a New York-based health and nutrition consultant and author of “My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family, With Recipes. ” Her series on growing up with a fat father appears on the Well blog of the New York Times

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linda Zagon

    MY REVIEW OF "MY FAT DAD" by Dawn Lerman Dawn Lerman, author of "My Fat Dad" has written a delightful honest memoir about her family, love and food. I love the way that the author writes lovingly about her Grandmother "Beauty". who shared her love, affection and support of Dawn. Dawn's mother and father were absent in many ways. They were not attentive or affectionate and often too busy to be there for Dawn. Many of the family traditions and interactions revolved around food. Dawn's father was pop MY REVIEW OF "MY FAT DAD" by Dawn Lerman Dawn Lerman, author of "My Fat Dad" has written a delightful honest memoir about her family, love and food. I love the way that the author writes lovingly about her Grandmother "Beauty". who shared her love, affection and support of Dawn. Dawn's mother and father were absent in many ways. They were not attentive or affectionate and often too busy to be there for Dawn. Many of the family traditions and interactions revolved around food. Dawn's father was popular in advertising with his slogans of many products. He was obsessed with food, and constantly on every diet possible, Dawn's mother did not cook. Dawn learned to appreciate cooking and preparation from her Grandmother "Beauty". As a child, Dawn like to experiment with preparing healthier foods. In between her father's starvation diets, he would eat everything in sight. There was no moderation. I appreciate and admire how Dawn writes about her family and their emotional feelings. Growing up in a dysfunctional family was difficult. Dawn often found herself in the position of taking care of her younger sister or her father. Using many of the recipes from Grandma Beauty, and revising and experimenting, Dawn would come up with healthy alternatives. I would highly recommend this heartwarming memoir! Did I mention that the author has included some amazing, mouthwatering, tantalizing recipes? I can't wait to try some of them. I would like to thank the author for a copy of this book for my honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Suzy

    I had set this book aside for about 3 years after starting it and basically forgot about it. Just picked it up again and glad I did. A memoir of a very dysfunctional and bizarre childhood in the 1970s that was held together by the author’s interest in and love for healthy, delicious food and those who shared it with her. She went on to become the author of the New York Times’ Well Blog. I loved the vivid 1970s references to mainly food but also other things as it brought back memories from that I had set this book aside for about 3 years after starting it and basically forgot about it. Just picked it up again and glad I did. A memoir of a very dysfunctional and bizarre childhood in the 1970s that was held together by the author’s interest in and love for healthy, delicious food and those who shared it with her. She went on to become the author of the New York Times’ Well Blog. I loved the vivid 1970s references to mainly food but also other things as it brought back memories from that time.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elise

    The author's wonderful, loving relationship with her grandmother didn't compensate for her cold as ice mother, distant father and entitled sister. And I had couldn't relate to how Dawn continued justifying the behavior of her immediate family. That, plus poor writing (find one contraction in the novel. I know it's nitpicky but it drove me bananas!) made for an ok story but nothing compelling. I'm more interested in trying out some of the recipes in the book. The author's wonderful, loving relationship with her grandmother didn't compensate for her cold as ice mother, distant father and entitled sister. And I had couldn't relate to how Dawn continued justifying the behavior of her immediate family. That, plus poor writing (find one contraction in the novel. I know it's nitpicky but it drove me bananas!) made for an ok story but nothing compelling. I'm more interested in trying out some of the recipes in the book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael Goth

    This is a wonderful book. Dawn Lerman tells a very special story about how she developed a life long love of food at a very early age from her grandmother. This is also the story of a daughter and a sister. Told with humor and compassion, I highly recommend this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    "Fat Dad" truly spoke to me. Even if you never make one of the recipes, this book needs to be in your collection. With one parent obsessed with the trendy diet-of-the-week, and the eat to live/live to eat tug of war within her unconventional family, Dawn held herself and her family together using a lifeline of recipes and wisdom from her loving grandmother. Through warm, funny, coming-of-age in New York City stories collected from her columns in 'The New York Times,’ each chapter revolves around "Fat Dad" truly spoke to me. Even if you never make one of the recipes, this book needs to be in your collection. With one parent obsessed with the trendy diet-of-the-week, and the eat to live/live to eat tug of war within her unconventional family, Dawn held herself and her family together using a lifeline of recipes and wisdom from her loving grandmother. Through warm, funny, coming-of-age in New York City stories collected from her columns in 'The New York Times,’ each chapter revolves around the memories that a favorite childhood food evokes; at the end of each Dawn shares those precious recipes with us. A unique feature is at the conclusion of the book, where Dawn (I feel as if I know her!) shows how to convert the recipes for different dietary choices - gluten free, dairy free, nut free, egg free, or sugar free. The little girl who was so determined to help her daddy get healthy wants to help you keep to your healthy choices, too!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Chance

    Dawn Lerman’s dad was a big man. Not only was he big in the advertising world (he came up with the ads for “Leggo My Eggo!” and “This Bud’s For You!), Al Lerman was a big man, literally and physically. At his heaviest, Al tipped the scales at over 450, and he was famous among his family and friends for trying every weight loss method that came long. In her memoir, “My Fat Dad,” Dawn Lerman shares her childhood memories of growing up with a father who was smart, talented, and …, well, fat. Her dad Dawn Lerman’s dad was a big man. Not only was he big in the advertising world (he came up with the ads for “Leggo My Eggo!” and “This Bud’s For You!), Al Lerman was a big man, literally and physically. At his heaviest, Al tipped the scales at over 450, and he was famous among his family and friends for trying every weight loss method that came long. In her memoir, “My Fat Dad,” Dawn Lerman shares her childhood memories of growing up with a father who was smart, talented, and …, well, fat. Her dad tried everything that even suggested a hint of weight loss was possible. He tried Atkins, Weight Watchers, the grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet – you name it, he tried it. And he tried to convince the rest of the family to go on the diet journey with him. Dawn’s mother couldn’t be bothered – she was stick thin and existed on a can of tuna eaten standing up every day while managing Dawn’s little sister’s acting career. Dawn tried to support and encourage her father, she was busy learning to cook and how to eat healthy on the weekends she spent with her beloved grandmother. It was a dizzying world of contradictions as Dawn grew up, but she had the intelligence to know what her dad was doing wasn’t healthy, as well as her mom’s indifference to food. Slowly Dawn took over cooking for herself and her little sister when she could, learning to make good food decisions and treasuring the happiness and love she found in her grandmother’s kitchen. And she shares many of her family recipes at the end of each fascinating chapter in this book. “My Fat Dad” is an amazing look at one man’s up and down journey of weight gain and weight loss as seen through his daughter’s eyes. The feeling of frustration, admiration, and love can be felt through Dawn Lerman’s words as she relates the good times and bad of her unusual childhood. She has gone on to become a certified nutrition expert and an advocate for nutrition education for young people. This is a memoir that readers will find they can’t put down, except maybe for a few minutes to gather ingredients to make some of the delicious sounding recipes that Lerman generously includes.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Lindsay

    Absolutely devoured MY FAT DAD by Dawn Lerman. At times funny, sad, and unbelievable, but always warm, engaging, and insightful, MY FAT DAD (Berkley Books, 2015) is technically a memoir/cookbook sprinkled with the joys and sorrows of growing up Jewish with (mostly) absent parents in New York (and a bit of Chicago). But she had her grandmother, another foodie, who sent her twenty bucks and a recipe each week, growing her love of food, nurturing others, and self-understanding. Each chapter begins Absolutely devoured MY FAT DAD by Dawn Lerman. At times funny, sad, and unbelievable, but always warm, engaging, and insightful, MY FAT DAD (Berkley Books, 2015) is technically a memoir/cookbook sprinkled with the joys and sorrows of growing up Jewish with (mostly) absent parents in New York (and a bit of Chicago). But she had her grandmother, another foodie, who sent her twenty bucks and a recipe each week, growing her love of food, nurturing others, and self-understanding. Each chapter begins with a topic and the food that fed the author--either emotionally or physically-- during this time. For example, Chapter 2: My Baby Sister. Aunt Jeannie's Apple Strudel, Chocolate Chip Mandel Bread, Russian Borscht, Sure to Make You Feel Special Shirley Temple. Now if that doesn't make your mouth water, than I don't know what will! Plus, the food offerings were often (but not always) indicative of the social and political times our country was in, e.g. the vegetarian movement, etc. Told with tremendous insight, Dawn Lerman dives into the intricate world of raising children, her parent's dysfunctional attitude toward food (and often each other), and her own insecurities, growing up, and more. MY FAT DAD certainly *does* show the author's relationship with her dad, his constant dieting, her insistence on helping him maintain a healthy weight, but it's so much more than that--it's about his prestigious job as creative director at a major advertising firm in the 1960s-1970s ala MAD MEN. And then he gets sent off to a "fat farm" at the urging and sympathy of his boss. Lerman is a gifted storyteller and just as astute in the kitchen; I have dog-eared several recipes I'm eager to try. My only "complaint" is I felt the ending came a little abruptly. I would loved to have learned more about Dawn's relationship with her dad, mom, and husband. Still, the story is one that will most definitely stay with me for years to come. For all of my reviews, including author interviews, please see: www.leslielindsay.com I'm grateful to the author for this lovely review copy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Good Book Fairy

    For more reviews like this, visit www.goodbookfairy.com My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family by Dawn Lerman – 336 pages 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 t For more reviews like this, visit www.goodbookfairy.com My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family by Dawn Lerman – 336 pages 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emily Lisker

    Beauty Would be so Proud I just finished reading My Fat Dad, a memoir by Dawn Lerman, and I COMPLETELY loved it. My Fat Dad is a memoir centered on food, the food she grow up with, the food of her relatives. I learned a lot about my own upbringing from Dawn's writing - reading her book was like catching up with a long-lost cousin. In some ways our childhoods were identical. We must be nearly the same age and both of our fathers were in advertising in midtown Manhattan. There were so many parallel Beauty Would be so Proud I just finished reading My Fat Dad, a memoir by Dawn Lerman, and I COMPLETELY loved it. My Fat Dad is a memoir centered on food, the food she grow up with, the food of her relatives. I learned a lot about my own upbringing from Dawn's writing - reading her book was like catching up with a long-lost cousin. In some ways our childhoods were identical. We must be nearly the same age and both of our fathers were in advertising in midtown Manhattan. There were so many parallels. I want my brothers and sisters and cousins to read this book. I was grateful for having read her story, and she told it so well. I woke up this morning thinking about how important Dawn's grandmother Beauty was to her and how Beauty fostered, inspired, and nurtured a love of cooking in Dawn. She received everything Dawn shared with her with wisdom and compassion. This love was carried from Beauty to Dawn to Dawn's sister April. With Dawn's urging and help April was cast as Orphan Annie in a production that traveled around the country. I empathized with Dawn's feelings of emptiness and abandonment in an environment of privilege. Dawn's life-saving grandmother Beauty made me think of my own grandmother Sophie. It was heartbreaking to imagine Dawn's distracted parents, the atmosphere of benign neglect. How could one not completely love and adore this child? Dawn described her upbringing with sincerity, clarity, and grace. She grew up in a particular time and place which I recognized completely. I loved this memoir. Dawn is a warrior telling her truth. She found her voice and she used it beautifully and compassionately. As with the best books I was nourished having read it. Beauty would be so proud.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Marlene

    In this memoir, Dawn tells a story of her childhood in the 70s, living with an over-weight father who tried practically every diet out there, a mother who could care less about food and a grandmother who had a huge influence over her love of nurturing the body with healthy food. We are given great insight on how insecurities, parents’ views on nutrition, and stress play a role in how we eat. Although Dawn’s father used food as a crutch, this book is about much more than just an overweight father In this memoir, Dawn tells a story of her childhood in the 70s, living with an over-weight father who tried practically every diet out there, a mother who could care less about food and a grandmother who had a huge influence over her love of nurturing the body with healthy food. We are given great insight on how insecurities, parents’ views on nutrition, and stress play a role in how we eat. Although Dawn’s father used food as a crutch, this book is about much more than just an overweight father. It’s about why people turn to food, the misconceptions of fad diets and how everyday struggles can play a huge role on our diet. Written with such honesty, but sprinkled with the perfect amount of humor, the author brings the reader into her world (and in essence, her family) and exposes how easily children can be misguided by what they see during their everyday lives. But it was the relationship that Dawn had with her grandmother that hit me. It showed that when people take time to properly educate the youth, it’s amazing how influential they can be on their future. I grew up with a Filipino mother and Italian father. Talk about cultures that love to feed others and celebrate with food! Like Dawn, my father has tried many of the fad diets. Growing up we were taught to eat what was put on the table, never to waste food and appreciate that our bellies were full. As I got older, I realized some of the things I would’ve done differently, and do now as a wife and parent. I really enjoyed this book. I was able to relate to much of it and felt like I was brought back to my own childhood.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Di

    Memoir of a young foodie and her relationship with her overweight father. Mouthwatering descriptions of food, recipes included. Storyline seems stretched at times.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Wolf

    Nostalgia plus Recipes equals Delicious First to mention is this isn't only a cookbook, and the memoir isn't just about the cover's "My Fat Dad." I was pleasantly surprised to discover this book is about a whole cast of influential characters, where each one is an important person who fed the author's views on food and health and who is written about in stories with as much color and flavor as the curated recipes themselves (each recipe is included at the end of its chapter). The author's life st Nostalgia plus Recipes equals Delicious First to mention is this isn't only a cookbook, and the memoir isn't just about the cover's "My Fat Dad." I was pleasantly surprised to discover this book is about a whole cast of influential characters, where each one is an important person who fed the author's views on food and health and who is written about in stories with as much color and flavor as the curated recipes themselves (each recipe is included at the end of its chapter). The author's life story from hungry toddler to exploratory teen in '70's Chicago and onto the wild scene of Studio 54 in New York City comes through as a touching tribute to the broader family that raised her and to the individuals who blessed her with the lasting skills she thrives on today as a mother, NY Times writer and expert nutritionist. If you're looking for food prep techniques that come from family tradition, not from a dry technical manual, and for recipes that are equally nutritious and heartfelt, then definitely give this book a try. In sum, mix equal parts nostalgic memoir and healthy recipes and you'll get a book that is truly delicious.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robyn Webb

    One of the most rewarding aspects of being a writer is the ability to invite people into your space and regale them with intrigue and lore. When it comes to weaving food, family and love together in a heart felt way, there is no better book on the shelf right now than Dawn's, My Fat Dad. This magnificent book, Dawn's first, is a juicy melange of growing up in the 1970's with a very hefty father who never met a diet he didn't try, a mother who couldn't care less about food, and a grandmother who t One of the most rewarding aspects of being a writer is the ability to invite people into your space and regale them with intrigue and lore. When it comes to weaving food, family and love together in a heart felt way, there is no better book on the shelf right now than Dawn's, My Fat Dad. This magnificent book, Dawn's first, is a juicy melange of growing up in the 1970's with a very hefty father who never met a diet he didn't try, a mother who couldn't care less about food, and a grandmother who told the tales of the family identity through food, in a base of drama sprinkled with recipes burned into Dawn's memory. This very refreshing and engrossing book should be under your Christmas tree right now because no matter your background, Dawn's words will ring true as you examine your own families idiosyncrasies, quirks all enveloped around the food we choose to be in our daily lives. So let's give a bravo to Dawn for having the delicious chutzpah for writing this scrumptious, often hilarious and definitely poignant book that many will relate to.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    I won a copy from the author through facebook. I enjoyed reading this warm and heart-breaking memoir about her relationship with her parents and her favorite grandmother, Beauty. Her dad's obsession with different weight loss programs and her time cooking with Beauty gave her a love of food and learned how to cook to help her dad and ultimately a career as a nutritionist. Although she was neglected by her parents many times, her close bond with her grandmother and her interest in food kept her f I won a copy from the author through facebook. I enjoyed reading this warm and heart-breaking memoir about her relationship with her parents and her favorite grandmother, Beauty. Her dad's obsession with different weight loss programs and her time cooking with Beauty gave her a love of food and learned how to cook to help her dad and ultimately a career as a nutritionist. Although she was neglected by her parents many times, her close bond with her grandmother and her interest in food kept her focused and in going froward with her life. I loved the recipes at the end of each chapter. Memories of food in childhood does have an impact on one's life in my opinion. If you love memoirs and recipes, I recommend this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alaine

    I had read a story by the author in the NY Times about her dad and family and it was really enjoyable. In this nonfiction story about her family, the center of the novel is her very overweight dad and how he tries all the diets of the 70's-80's with dubious results. Some back stories in the book are how he worked in advertising for Mccann-Erickson and wrote many famous jingles, while her younger sister, encouraged by Dawn tries out and becomes one of the orphans in Annie, the broadway show. Dawn I had read a story by the author in the NY Times about her dad and family and it was really enjoyable. In this nonfiction story about her family, the center of the novel is her very overweight dad and how he tries all the diets of the 70's-80's with dubious results. Some back stories in the book are how he worked in advertising for Mccann-Erickson and wrote many famous jingles, while her younger sister, encouraged by Dawn tries out and becomes one of the orphans in Annie, the broadway show. Dawn is left to her own and rebels in her own way as a teen sneaking into NY clubs(Studio 54) during the disco era of NYC. Along with the recipes, an enjoyable read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Renita M

    This is a well written and fascinating memoir that focuses on food. It could have gone a dozen other directions, though. While I appreciate that Dawn has come through her crazy childhood relatively sane, given her parents' messed up relationship with food, I did think the health related advice seemed a bit dated and preachy sometimes. Carob is not a good substitute for chocolate under any circumstances. And dark chocolate is good for you. But as a book, it's a good read and she's had quite the li This is a well written and fascinating memoir that focuses on food. It could have gone a dozen other directions, though. While I appreciate that Dawn has come through her crazy childhood relatively sane, given her parents' messed up relationship with food, I did think the health related advice seemed a bit dated and preachy sometimes. Carob is not a good substitute for chocolate under any circumstances. And dark chocolate is good for you. But as a book, it's a good read and she's had quite the life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dean Robertson

    This book encourages hope as it describes a fairly devastating upbringing. It portrays sharply the realities of shame and insecurity engendered by growing up with a father who was grossly and perpetually overweight and for balance he tried every diet fad in the country, dragging the family along with him. Dawn Lerman found consolation at her grandmother's house, in the kitchen, learning to cook. She now writes a Well Blog for the NYTimes and, ironically, has written a memoir loaded with deliciou This book encourages hope as it describes a fairly devastating upbringing. It portrays sharply the realities of shame and insecurity engendered by growing up with a father who was grossly and perpetually overweight and for balance he tried every diet fad in the country, dragging the family along with him. Dawn Lerman found consolation at her grandmother's house, in the kitchen, learning to cook. She now writes a Well Blog for the NYTimes and, ironically, has written a memoir loaded with delicious and healthy recipes. Her father now weighs a comfortable 250 pounds and is a vegan.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    Memoir with recipes. Food and how it ties a family together is a theme. Not the gregarious fun story that the cover had me expecting. Interesting to me how what we would call neglect led to an independent, ultimately successful child. Quite the contrast to the helicopter parents we see so much of today. Inadvertently chronologicals the changing societal norms of the 60s and 70s and how food and diet trends changed as well. Meh.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    Through a sensory-rich story that is two-thirds childhood memoir and one-third cookbook, "My Fat Dad" by Dawn Lerman, captures the life of a sweet and sensitive child who hungers for her parents’ love and attention and finds nourishment and empowerment in her grandmother's kitchen. Read the rest my review here: http://wp.me/p6v0Mw-DC Through a sensory-rich story that is two-thirds childhood memoir and one-third cookbook, "My Fat Dad" by Dawn Lerman, captures the life of a sweet and sensitive child who hungers for her parents’ love and attention and finds nourishment and empowerment in her grandmother's kitchen. Read the rest my review here: http://wp.me/p6v0Mw-DC

  29. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I really enjoyed reading these essays in The NY Times - especially the ones that dealt with Dawn's grandma, Beauty. Really showcased how one person can make a huge difference in the life of a child! The book was a good read and I liked learning more about her family dynamics. As a child of the 70s, it was also fun to see some of the cultural reference! I really enjoyed reading these essays in The NY Times - especially the ones that dealt with Dawn's grandma, Beauty. Really showcased how one person can make a huge difference in the life of a child! The book was a good read and I liked learning more about her family dynamics. As a child of the 70s, it was also fun to see some of the cultural reference!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    For the most part, I loved this memoir. The title and cover are a bit misleading. While it is certainly a story about Dawn Lerman's fat father and his many diets, it is more centrally a story about food and eating. I loved being invited into this world of comfort food and family connections. When it stays on course, it is very effective. For the most part, I loved this memoir. The title and cover are a bit misleading. While it is certainly a story about Dawn Lerman's fat father and his many diets, it is more centrally a story about food and eating. I loved being invited into this world of comfort food and family connections. When it stays on course, it is very effective.

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