Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi's third book Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir (Amazon) came out a little over a month ago and the reviews are in. The reviews are, on a whole, positive, though some critics make note of a jumbled timeline and say Lakshimi's writing can be overly-detailed. A majority of Amazon reviewers gave the book high marks, as well, commending the author for her use of "vivid details of sight, sound, smells, touches, and tastes to transport you to her experiences in India." One reviewer, however, was less than impressed, writing that the author "made a not so subtle dig at one of the other regular judges as perhaps having a drinking problem."
Unlike her previous two books (both cookbooks), Love, Loss, and What We Ate gets personal, often touching on the TV personality's relationship with her ex-husband, Salman Rushdie. (In 2012, Rushdie released his own memoir, which offered some biting critiques of Lakshmi's personality.) The majority of the book, though, details Lakshmi's life as a child in India, her immigration to the United States, and what she ate along the way, with recipes interspersed throughout. Below, the review roundup:
Although uneven at times and with a strangely jumbled timeline, the narrative is a collection of heartfelt memories, astute observations and plain old good dish.
In the book's acknowledgments, Lakshmi thanks Rushdie for "planting the seed" for the memoir and "handing her Rousseau". What she hands back to us readers may not be Rousseau, but it's a moveable feast - funny, poignant and delectable all at once.
A theme emerges in the pages of "Love, Loss, and What We Ate" of a beautiful woman determined to prove her other merits. She writes of the "imposter syndrome" she experienced alongside chefs like Eric Ripert on "Top Chef" and of the panic that often overcame her on posing for photographers on the red carpet with Rushdie: "I was captured being what I most feared I would become: an ornament or medal."
Food, inextricably woven into so many of Lakshmi's memories â recipes are periodically inserted, for delicacies ranging from chaatpati chutney to "egg in a hole" is particularly central in these recollections. "Cooking was the domain not of girls, but of women," Lakshmi tells us; and the savoring of meals and snacks can be described as evocatively as the preparation.
Lakshmi has occasionally advocated for women's rights. She's published bestselling cookbooks, as well as fashion and food columns in Vogue and The New York Times. But the memoir is different. Not only is it a deeply revealing and personal book, but an evocative one filled with lovely turns of phrase.
The book appears to spare little, delving deeply into personal details about uncertainty over paternity during her pregnancy, the pain of a custody case and her efforts to overcome the insecurity she felt being Indian.