Author Rabia Chaudry (“Adnan’s Story”) has a new offering, a coming-of-age memoir. It deals with food, family, the difficulty of trying to maintain an ideal weight, and a quest for what’s important in life.
Chaudry’s parents—her father a veterinarian and her mother a school headmistress—are residents of Lahore, Pakistan. At some point, they decide to leave the country and their large extended family to relocate to the U.S.
Unaccustomed to their new environment and unfamiliar with the various food items, her family makes a few wrong choices. They gravitate toward fast food at mealtimes and succumb to junk food whenever in need of a snack, since it is “cheap, easy, tasty.” The result proves to be disastrous for young Chaudry, who loves to nosh. The excess weight she gains makes her look older. At age eleven, she’s mistaken for a girl of fifteen. That’s not all. In school she’s humiliated when a fitness test is conducted, and she performs poorly.
The family makes occasional trips to Pakistan, where elaborate feasts are a part of the social scene, and that doesn’t help Chaudry, either. Her pretty and popular younger sister, Lilly, seems to be doing fine, whereas an overweight Chaudry suffers from loneliness.
Her indomitable spirit persists through various failed weight loss attempts and an abusive marriage. She marries again, passes the bar exam, and undergoes a gastric bypass. Over time, she reaches a realization: “It turns out my body was never the enemy. It has been waiting for me to treat it with patience, and attention, and kindness. It has been waiting for me to learn what nourishes it, and what it can achieve. We are friends now, my body and I. I know what she needs and what she wants.”
Chaudry’s preoccupation with food might at times seem excessive. Even her chapter titles are composed of a list of food items or a food-related phrase. Examples are “Doodh, Dahi, Makhan: Milk, Yogurt, Butter,” and “Ghost Khor: Meat Eaters.”
However, her skillful writing makes it easy to turn the pages. Readers will rejoice that an addendum at the back of the book includes Pakistani recipes. Instead of putting these in the standard format, she employs the narrative style, thereby incorporating a friendlier tone.
Bharti Kirchner is the author of eight novels and four cookbooks. Her latest novel is Murder at Andaman: A Maya Mallick Mystery.