Why write a book about food?
Allen Zadoff, author of Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have
They say write about what you know, and I know food. I don’t know it in a professional way like a contestant on Top Chef or the guy who yells a lot on Cake Boss, I know it in a personal way, as a formerly fat kid, someone who got down and dirty with more than his share of pizza, donuts, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Actually, I used to love leftovers more than meals. I’d wait until my parents went to sleep and then I’d sneak into the kitchen and put cold, leftover lasagna into a bagel and eat it like a giant pasta sandwich! I hid food up my sleeves, in my pockets, under my mattress. Anywhere as long as I could eat it without being seen. I was just like a girl on a date. I’d eat a small salad in front of my family, and the minute they left the house, I’d gobble down an entire bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
I loved food, but I hated feeling different. And that was the downside of overeating: it made me really big, and I was miserable because of it. In my novel Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have, the protagonist, Andrew Zansky, suffers in a lot of the same ways I did in high school. Not fitting into desks, avoiding gym class like the plague, being invisible to girls… it’s the universal story of fat kids (boys and girls) the world over. The difference is that I was pretty serious, and Andrew is one of those kids who is really funny about things, and his journey is a lot different than mine because he sort of comes to appreciate his body and make peace with his size. Who said big is bad, right? But I didn’t know that until I was like 28 years old and I’d lost a whole lot of weight. Maybe I’m a slow learner.
So I think you’re getting the idea that Food, Girls is not just about food, but it's about what it feels like to be big in small world, and I wrote it because that was my actual experience for a long time. But Andrew isn’t the only character who wants to be different in the novel. There’s April, a Korean girl who wears blue contacts so she’ll look more—I don’t know what. And Nancy Yee who hates being so skinny. It seems like that’s part of the human condition, doesn’t it? We always want to be different than we are. But isn’t being different what makes us so interesting in the first place?
Anyway, these are the kinds of questions I explore in Food, Girls. I hope you’ll read it when it comes out in September, and let me know what you think!