Love, Loss, and What We Ate

Love, Loss, and What We Ate coverLove, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
Padma Lakshmi
narrated by the author
HarperAudio, 2016
Audiobook $28.95, Kindle edition $9.99
audiobook borrowed from the Santa Clara County Library System

I have been getting my audiobooks from the Santa Clara County Library System. As a result I find myself borrowing books that I might otherwise not listen to as the newer, popular books are usually checked out. That was definitely the case with Love, Loss, and What We Ate.

I wasn’t familiar with Padma Lakshmi before listening to her memoir. I am a foodie, as you well know, but if you have been reading this blog for a while you know that I also hate competition cooking shows. Lakshmi is best known as a judge on Top Chef, which airs on the Bravo network. It turns out, however, that she has done a lot more than that.

Lakshmi’s mother is an immigrant from India who put herself through nursing school and then devoted herself to the profession. Padma found herself somewhat at loose ends after college and more or less stumbled into a career in modeling. That led to some acting gigs which led to an anchor role on the Italian equivalent of the Today show. Lakshmi writes with honesty about many aspects of her life, including her short-lived and tempestuous marriage to author Salmon Rushdie and a long-term relationship with one of the pioneers of the leveraged buyout, many decades her senior.

She also writes about her own personal health. She describes her battle with endometriosis in excruciating detail which made me, as a male, uncomfortable. But I am sure that part of her motivation in writing the book was to make her own struggles public as a means of raising awareness and helping other women with the same disease, which seems to be frequently misdiagnosed. In fact, she helped found the Endometriosis Foundation of America. And in the larger picture, that was a small, even if somewhat lengthy, part of the book.

I listened to an NPR piece on audiobook production a number of years ago. The segment included David Sedaris, who records the audio versions of his own books, explaining how one should not try to take on the voices of others when reading dialog, but rather continue on in one’s own voice. As much as it was a delight to hear Lakshmi tell her own story, I wish she had followed David’s advice. The Indian accent she used for her female relatives sounded affected at best. Her attempt at taking on the accent of her Turkish gynecologist sounded, well, just strange.

Nonetheless, the book was for the most part enjoyable. While I grew weary hearing at times of Lakshmi’s jet setting ways, she still has led an interesting life that lends itself to pleasant listening.


audiobooks and the best way to get them

My history of listening to audiobooks goes way back. I was an Audible member many years ago, back when Audible was a separate entity and not inextricably integrated into the Amazon infrastructure as it is today. I enjoyed listening to audiobooks on my walks, but when I found The Great Courses I liked their thirty-minute lecture format and the conversational tone of most of the lecturers. I ultimately cancelled my Audible plan.

AudibleAs much as I love The Great Courses, I have run through pretty much all of the courses in which I am interested that are suitable for an audio-only format (and a few for which I should have purchased the video version) and in fact have listened to a number of courses more than once.

So these days I have switched back to audiobooks, but have been getting them from the Santa Clara County Library System. I am reluctant to pay Amazon the $14.95 a month they want for Audible. I am not opposed to the fee in principle, but I have enough monthly subscriptions as it is; I don’t really need another one.

Still, there are limitations to using the library. I find myself borrowing books that I might otherwise not listen to as the newer, popular books are usually checked out. This can be good, in that I very much enjoyed The Olive Tree and Padma Lakshmi’s Love, Loss, and What We Ate, neither of which I would have been likely to listen to otherwise. On the other hand I hate being restricted in that way.

There are other disadvantages to the library as well. Library books must be turned in within a specified time frame. The point for me in having an audiobook (or a Great Courses lecture series) is to have something to listen to when I am out on my walks or when I am doing yard work. Since I have a time limit on audiobooks from the library, I find myself listening to them at other times as well. That’s not entirely bad, I suppose, but I do feel somewhat pressured.

So the answer? As the (misquoted) Jack Benny phrase goes, I’m thinking, I’m thinking.


an end to envy

When Terry and I left Gilroy and moved south in 2015 we hated leaving the house into which we had put so much love, effort, and money. What I really hated giving up was the stove with convection oven which we installed as part of our kitchen remodel.

It’s shouldn’t be surprising then, that when we would watch cooking programs on Food Network (and we watch a lot of them) that I would get a bit sad and a little envious when the camera shot would show the inside of an oven with a fan in the back. That fan meant, of course, that it was a convection oven. I managed to not let that interfere with my life in any sort of significant way, but I did miss my convection oven.

Earlier this year our oven here in Hemet quit working. A day after the service man came out and diagnosed the problem we got a call saying that the repair would be $250. Given that the stove was the age of the house, twelve years old, and given that we had lost the clock display during a power bobble over the winter, we decided the money would be better spent going towards a new stove.

stoveAs much as we like to support our locally-owned appliance shop, and we do—we bought both a washer-dryer pair and a refrigerator there—their selection of stoves, at least those with convection ovens, did not excite us. We made a trip to Lowe’s and found a unit that we liked. To get it in white, we were told, would be two to three weeks. That was fine, although the two to three weeks turned into seven.

In the end, though, it was worth the wait, and in any case I was somewhat less than a hundred percent for much of that time after my surgery and the unpleasant complication that followed it. By the time the stove arrived I was feeling much better and ready to make good use of it.

Having had it for some weeks now, I can say that I am delighted. No, it is not a Wolf or Sub-Zero: it is a Samsung. It is, however, everything I need. I have my convection oven, a proof setting for bread, and even a long grill burner, something our Gilroy stove didn’t have.

No more reason to feel envy when I see the fans in the ovens on Food Network.


Tasha at fifteen

Today Terry and I celebrate Tasha’s fifteenth birthday. We don’t know her exact age, but given the vet’s estimate of her age when we brought her home from the shelter in November 2005 and our desire to honor the memory of my Grandma Monaghan, whose birthday was May 1, we are comfortable and confident in saying that she is fifteen today.

TashaTasha is doing well. And she has done well looking after us. When I brought Terry home from her knee replacement surgery in October Tasha immediately knew that Terry needed love, attention, and protection. She provided that. After my surgery in February and my subsequent, unpleasant setback in March Tasha knew the same about me and provided the same. During my two hospital stays when Terry was home alone, Tasha, unsure of my whereabouts, looked after her.

Of course when we are both in good shape and doing well she is her usual self and very insistent on her routine. When it starts to get light outside in the morning she wants her breakfast. She needs to have two walks a day and her dry food in the evening. If one of us does not head into the kitchen around 6:30 to start dinner she lets us know that needs to happen. And after dinner she has to have her cookie and then we need to head into the bedroom and put our feet up on the bed to read the newspapers, but only after giving Tasha her chew.

She has been an integral part of our lives all these years. We really cannot overstate how much we love and value our girl.