Celia Sack, owner of Omnivore Books on Food—San Francisco's only food book store, specializing in both new and antiquarian cookbooks—knows what's cooking. Find the best of the latest food writing and cookbooks on Bits + Bites every other Monday.
For the last four years, I've been an avid reader of Frank Bruni's New York Times restaurant reviews. Yet there were countless moments while reading his new memoir Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater (Penguin Press, $26) that I found myself wishing he always wrote this way. The self-effacing humor, the easy-going enjoyment of pedestrian meals, the passion for Good Humor Candy Center Crunch bars. In his brutally honest, humorous—and sometimes painful—book recalling an Italian-American childhood in Westchester, New York, Bruni finally lets go of his Times "tough restaurant critic" persona and lets us see ... well, his softer side.
Born Round describes a life of obsessive dieting and weight battles, culminating with bulimia, an addiction to Mexican speed, as well as self-loathing on the Bush trail, when Bruni follows the presidential hopeful around the country, boxed in by greasy food and an ever-expanding waistline. At one point, he glimpses a photo of himself taken while following the campaign, and writes, "I didn't fully recognize myself. My head was turned sideways, and the path of flesh from my chin to my Adam's apple was a direct, diagonal one, not the two-leg trip, with a ninety-degree turn, that it should have been, that it once was. When had I developed a wattle? Me at thirty-three: half man, half turkey. Which, I guess, made all of those sandwiches Mom had once prepared for me props in a surreal drama of prophetic cannibalism."
The book examines personal family patterns ("Mangia!" being the family credo) and his constant battles against them. He eventually wins, with us pulling mightily for him. How? You'll have to read the book.
Come listen to Frank Bruni read:
Omnivore Books on Food
Saturday, September 12, 5 p.m.
Sunday, September 13, 12:00 PM