Unlikely as it seems, a food memoir by a gay man is one of my favorite reads recently. I picked it up towards fulfilling a reading challenge list, and I immediately found Born Round engaging, funny, refreshing, and fascinating. Frank Bruni was born to an Italian environment that encouraged family, food, and festive times. Frank took to that enthusiastically, and his mother noticed pretty early that little Frank loved his food. His appetite launched the odyssey of a man not much younger than myself who endured years of secret trauma obsessing over his weight.
The Brunis were very competitive, and that helped Frank throughout his life. From high school swimming champion to Outward Bound to a Morehead Scholarship at UNC Chapel Hill and beyond, Frank worked hard. Unfortunately, he did that in private, too, using Metamucil, speed and purging to keep the weight off.
His will and drive take him beyond his weight, however, from the Detroit Free Press, to the NYT reporter assigned to the Bush presidential campaign, to Rome as bureau chief, and finally back to NYC as the New York Times’ restaurant critic. The disguises and efforts needed to outwit the restaurateurs are hilarious and amazing. Who knew?
Don’t read this expecting outrageous behavior or graphic scenes (except for the food)—Bruni has dignity, discretion, and is most kind. He is proud to treat wait staff well in a restaurant; he does the same to friends and partners throughout this biography.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t funny or captivating! Fun ranges from descriptions of one roommate who yells out the apartment window for his cat and kills the aquarium crayfish for murdering the fish, to Bruni and his sister harassing their mom with fictional book titles such as “My Mother and Other Christian Martyrs.” But most of all, this is a book about food and Bruni’s obsessions with it. Most people will find much to enjoy here.
Frank Bruni takes you on adventures into his Italian upbringing, across the globe, and into the streets with this embodiment of what it means to be a journalist and a food critic. Highly recommended. ~Tessa 4 stars out of 5 February 2016