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I (heart) Frank Bruni: A Book Review September 9, 2010

I just finished reading Frank Bruni’s memoir, Born Round. When I got to the last page I was a little choked up, feeling like I’d found a real kindred spirit. He’s like another Foodie McBody! Someone who loves and appreciates food, AND who wants to be healthy and fit. I know so many fit people who truly seem unmoved by food, or who see it purely as fuel (and not so much as a source of pleasure) OR as the Enemy. Anybody who knows me knows that I am constantly striving to find ways to have my (cup)cake and eat it too. And of course I also know the foodies who turn a blind eye to fitness or health. Please, can’t I have both?

Enter Frank! OMG. For the first (more than?) half of the book, we follow him through his childhood, where he is a ravenous toddler, and then a huge eater at family feasts orchestrated by his mother and grandmother. The descriptions of the incredible food-a-paloozas were enough to make me faint. Pasta! Italian food! Roast turkey! Frites! (fried stuffed yummy things)

And there’s Frank, simultaneously loving all the food and mortified by his plumpness. And I’m nodding like one of those dashboard bobblehead doggies with its head on a spring. Sigh.

I followed, completely rapt, while Frank joins the swim team and slims down, then joins up with his mother on endless diets (Atkins! I did that one with my dad, back in the 70s), back and forth, back and forth. Ultimately it gets into some pretty dark territory, of bulimia and then bingeing.

It’s a classic tale of Too Much of a Good Thing, when something turns and then doesn’t feel so good anymore. And I feel like I am constantly trying to find that balance. I still want food to be a Good Thing. And it is, until it isn’t. I don’t ever want to fear food or not enjoy it. So it was kind of awe-inspiring and very happy making to read about Frank’s ultimate challenge and job: to be the food critic for the New York Times. How could he manage to eat out 7-8 times a week, at amazing multi-star restaurants, and stay fit and healthy?

Exercise. Of course. Lots of exercise. And portion control. Right? Of course that’s the key. Calories in, calories out. I loved reading about Frank’s bootcampish trainer, Aaron, who sounds like a much meaner version of my own trainer. I was intrigued by his description of Pilates. It was fun following Frank on his transformation from couch-potato-dom to athlete.

The writing in this book is fantastic. Funny, poignant, honest, real. I laughed out loud a LOT, and also cringed and wiped a tear or two. And there was a crazy moment of recognition, much like when I read Kate Moses’ Cakewalk and remembered that I ALSO bit the toes off of rubber alligators from Disneyland (WHAT??? Really!). Maybe not quite as bizarre, but like Frank Bruni, I also had a mad love for cold noodles with sesame paste, something I’d long forgotten (I can’t find this stuff in San Francisco). I used to be obsessssssssssed with those cold noodles when I lived in New York, and my favorite spot was this teeny tiny hole-in-the-wall called OMei in NY’s Chinatown. My friend used to bring me those as a special treat after I moved away. It’s been so many years since I’ve had those noodles, and… sigh. Reading this book brought it all back. (Frank! if you or anybody else knows where I can find these noodles in San Francisco, pleeeeeeeeeease tell me!)

Anyway. Back to the book. I loved it. For someone who loves both Top Chef AND The Biggest Loser, it really spoke to my heart (and my taste buds?).  It made me feel like I had company, in the best way. And after I read it, Frank Bruni joined the ranks of my invisible fit-foodie-community. I finished the book on Monday and in the evening, I was contemplating going out to the cemetery to work out. But it was a Holiday. And I was tired. Suddenly, the voice of Frank’s trainer Aaron popped into my head. “Don’t be a wimpy quitter!” I went out there and did 3.5 miles, and added on 50 pushups and 480 stairs. Then I came home and looked for something really, reallllllllly good to eat.

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16 Responses to “I (heart) Frank Bruni: A Book Review”

  1. [...] unknown wrote an interesting post today Here’s a quick excerpt Italian food! Roast turkey! Frites! (fried stuffed yummy things). And there’s Frank, simultaneously loving all the food and mortified by his plumpness. And I’m nodding like one of those dashboard bobblehead doggies with its head on a … [...]

  2. Patti Davis Says:

    I am reading this right now. I gobbled up the first 3/4 of the book in one day.

    And although I strive for fitness, I am still struggling. But tomorrow is another day.

    Great review! And just look at you! I will be reading your blog from now on. I found you on Frank’s twitter page and followed it here.

  3. LeeAnne Says:

    Thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely check out this book! I can relate to his/your struggle, but I haven’t quite figured it all out yet. (I have a good 75 pounds to lose.) Side note: My husband is one of those people who sees food as fuel and he totally doesn’t “get” it. Heh. So hard to explain! Ah, well…

  4. Pubsgal Says:

    Oooo, this sounds like a good one! Thanks for sharing this review with us. It’s funny, when I was first diagnosed, I tried to be all “food is fuel” and develop more detachment. But that’s not me. It may not be as comfortable an existance, but there’s just no denying that I have a foodie side, too. She just has to share space with the “fittie” side now.

  5. Fit B Says:

    Thanks for sharing this review! This book sounds like something I would enjoy.
    I am doing weight watchers and trying to find that balance between food is fuel but I still love it lol. I am finding more and more that its easier to be fit and healthy when I cook and just am learning to love and enjoy healthier versions of “bad things”
    Love your blog

  6. Ericka Says:

    Wait. NO WAY. I’ve been craving those sesame noodles from that NY chinatown place for YEARS. Seriously!! AND I have found something somewhat similar in flavor (though warm, and a different noodles) in Oakland Chinatown. Handcut noodles with sesame paste and spinach at Shan Dong. Oh god. I need them now.

  7. What a great review! I’m going to go out and find this book, it sounds like a great read! Thanks for the recommendation!

  8. MizFit Says:

    yep yep yep LOVED IT.

  9. Paolo Says:

    I’m really glad that there are people (like us, Susan!) who are still obsessive and LOVE food but can still are mindful about healthful eating and staying healthy.

    Do you think we are a rare breed? I kind of think we are.

  10. Elaine Says:

    I love what you have to say. I just found your blog via Sheryl’s Twitter.

  11. Michelle Says:

    I am finding this book tomorrow! Thanks for the tip!


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