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Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir

Review

Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir

One thing you can almost guarantee about Padma Lakshmi is that years, even decades, from now, she will be celebrated for making an indelible and positive imprint on how we appreciate multi-directional lives, especially as lived by determined women.

The March 8, 2016 release --- on International Women’s Day, no less --- of her substantial and edgy memoir, LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT WE ATE, stands out amid the ebb and flow of today’s global celebrity-consciousness as the work of someone seriously dedicated to multiple achievements.

Just as the many spices and ingredients in the foods of her Indian childhood, or the internationally inspired recipes gleaned from her high-profile career as one of TV’s “Top Chef” judges, blend with memorable sensory impact, so do Lakshmi’s parallel lives as an actress, supermodel, writer, chef, women’s health advocate, fashion designer, business entrepreneur and mother. Every thread of the fabric she describes so vividly in LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT WE ATE continually intersects and diverges like the ever-changing dynamics of her own extended family. In both practical and profoundly spiritual ways, they are all related, cherished and interdependent.

"What sets LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT WE ATE apart as such a deeply personal yet publicly generous account is its mindful honesty, verging at times on vulnerability."

Encouraged from an early age to use her athletic mind to its fullest, educated in theater and the arts, a published author long before her stunning looks propelled her to fame as India’s first international modeling sensation, Lakshmi capably embraces the challenges of writing a complex and fascinating mid-life story.

No slave to chronological shopping lists or predictable sequences of important public events, Lakshmi takes a thoughtful and sometimes meandering route through life as real people live it. Her reflections and reminiscences range from dealing with a controversial marriage to, and divorce from, bestselling author Salman Rushdie; balancing the demands and conflicts of living in two cultures; enduring decades of prolonged pain from undiagnosed endometriosis (for which she became a powerful health education advocate); overcoming color bias and physical perfection barriers in professional modeling; and establishing her own credentials as a serious artist and writer.

The outcome has not been a rising sequence of successes, but instead the very believable predictability of overwhelming simultaneous stresses, alternating with periods of leisure and abundant creativity. Everyone can relate to that!

What sets LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT WE ATE apart as such a deeply personal yet publicly generous account is its mindful honesty, verging at times on vulnerability. Whether scandalizing female relatives by omitting “essential” yet untasted ingredients from traditional recipes, or taking the huge (and ultimately painful) risk of disclosing the father of her cherished daughter, Krishna (born in 2010), Lakshmi never shies away from firmly owning and accounting for her decisions, even those made against the advice of people much respected and admired.

The bottom line is that life is meant to be lived in all its fullness, with responsibility and love, but not excuses. Perhaps that’s why there are no tantalizing photographs inserted among the 325 pages of LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT WE ATE. Apart from a single image on the dust jacket, there’s nothing to distract the reader from turning page after page in deep absorption and engagement with the sheer detail and sensory color of Lakshmi’s masterful prose.

Oh wait, there are the recipes --- dropped in here and there just when the flavor of her words and memories needs them to make the “picture” complete.

This is a true gem of a memoir for reading, tasting, sharing and learning.

Reviewed by Pauline Finch on April 8, 2016

Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
by Padma Lakshmi

  • Publication Date: March 8, 2016
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • ISBN-10: 0062202618
  • ISBN-13: 9780062202611