Frank Bruni was born round. Round as in stout, chubby, and hungry, always and endlessly hungry. He grew up in a big, loud Italian family in White Plains, where meals were epic, outsized affairs. At those meals, he demonstrated one of his foremost qualifications for his future career: an epic, outsized love of food. But Bruni’s relationship with eating was difficult, and his struggle with it began early.
When Bruni was named the restaurant critic for the New York Times in April 2004, he faced the standard new-job anxiety of whether he was up to the assignment before him. Bruni knew full well that the restaurant critic at the "Paper of Record" performs one of the most closely-watched tasks in the epicurean universe. A bumpy ride was certain, especially for someone without a seal of approval from the Cordon Bleu, someone who had never written about food, someone who for years had been busy writing about politics, presidential campaigns, and the Pope. What qualified him to be one of the most loved and hated tastemakers in the New York food world? Did his lifelong love affair with food suffice?
Food was his friend and enemy both, something he craved but feared, and his new-job jitters focused primarily on whether he’d finally made some sense of that relationship. In this coveted job, he’d face down his enemy at meal after indulgent meal. As his grandmother often put it, “Born round, you don’t die square.” Would he fall back into his old habits or could he establish a truce with the food on his plate?
Born Round traces the highly unusual path Bruni traveled to become a restaurant critic. It is a captivating account of an incident-filled eating life and a surprising journalistic ride from an intern’s desk at Newsweek all the way to a dream job at the New York Times. Throughout, Bruni gives us a painfully honest, sometimes heartbreaking view of the life of one itinerant journalist, as well as an eye-opening peek behind the scenes of restaurant criticism, a strange and anonymous profession that sows gratitude and loathing in equal measure.
Born Round will speak to any hungry hedonist who has ever had to rein in an appetite to avoid letting out a waistband and will delight anyone interested in matters of family, matters of the heart, and the big role food plays in them.