A friend game me Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir by Padma Lakshmi as a birthday present. She acknowledged that non-fiction isn’t really my thing but she thought I might find it interesting. She hadn’t read the book herself but had heard good things about it. I don’t recall ever having read an autobiography, or biography for that matter. And my friend was completely correct about me not being into non-fiction. This is only my second non-fiction book this year out of my current 47 reviews.
Before starting this book I knew two things about Padma Lakshmi, that she modeled and was famous for food somehow. Now I am amazed by the life she leads, but would never trade places with Padma for the world due to some of the painful life events she has had. If you look at the broad strokes of her professional life there is a lot to envy. She has traveled the world while modeling and acting, written two cookbooks, and been a judge on Top Chef for going on 15 seasons. But in Padma’s personal life there have been incredibly difficult times. Her struggle with endometriosis gives me a brand new level of sympathy for women with the condition.
Padma writes in an engaging voice. I did not expect to get so wrapped up in reading about her life. Not only in the fascinating details, as she has led an extraordinary life so far, but also in her self examination. Padma has long wrestled with her identity in part due to shuttling between India and New York City during her childhood. Being too Indian in America and too American in India, she has always had a foot in both worlds but not fully comfortable in either.
Through it all is her story of food. The “What We Ate” part of the title to her memoir is there specifically due to the importance of food in her life, even before becoming a food celebrity. Padma writes about her life through the filter of food, her love of and relationship to food. Her evocative descriptions of meals, comfort dishes, and the full range of flavors that she seeks out and combines left me in awe.
The way the narrative would bounce around in time, would occasionally annoy me as she doesn’t lay her life story in an entirely linear fashion. But overall I quite enjoyed Love, Loss, and What We Ate.