Just the title piques interest in this book, doesn’t it?
Blurb: “My entire life I have been less fat and more fat, but never not fat.” According to family lore, when Rabia Chaudry’s family returned to Pakistan for their first visit since moving to the United States, two-year-old Rabia was more than just a pudgy toddler. Dada Abu, her fit and sprightly grandfather, attempted to pick her up but had to put her straight back down, demanding of Chaudry’s mother: “What have you done to her?” The answer was two full bottles of half-and-half per day, frozen butter sticks to gnaw on, and lots and lots of American processed foods.
And yet, despite her parents plying her with all the wrong foods as they discovered Burger King and Dairy Queen, they were highly concerned for the future for their large-sized daughter. How would she ever find a suitable husband? There was merciless teasing by uncles, cousins, and kids at school, but Chaudry always loved food too much to hold a grudge against it. Soon she would leave behind fast food and come to love the Pakistani foods of her heritage, learning to cook them with wholesome ingredients and eat them in moderation. At once a love letter (with recipes) to fresh roti, chaat, chicken biryani, ghee, pakoras, shorba, parathay and an often hilarious dissection of life in a Muslim immigrant family, Fatty Fatty Boom Boom is also a searingly honest portrait of a woman grappling with a body that gets the job done but that refuses to meet the expectations of others.
Chaudry’s memoir offers readers a relatable and powerful voice on the controversial topic of body image, one that dispenses with the politics and gets to what every woman who has ever struggled with weight will relate to.
I mostly loved Fatty Fatty Boom Boom, an unflinching memoir of food and Pakistani life written by Rabia Chaudry. Where it works best is its description of the Pakistani cuisine and culture, especially in connection to holidays and celebrations. The way that Chaudry describes the food preparations and the celebrations brings to life a culture I know little about but which seems rooted on family and tradition. Mind you, not all of the traditions are admirable–the treatment of women, for instance, leaves something to be desired, as we see how she is treated by her ex-husband and ex-in-laws during her first marriage.
Although I am a few years older than Chaudry, I did feel like her description of food life in America in the 1980s did not resemble anything I knew even though she was living just across the river from me. We seldom snacked as kids and teenagers, and fast food was a treat (heh, I know, right?) that we indulged in at most once a month. Even now, fast food is only a road trip affair. And, while, like Chaudry, I am a voracious reader (obviously), the idea of sitting inside reading on clear day was unheard of. I didn’t feel that her descriptions epitomized life in America in totality, just one form of it that did grow (no pun intended) from then onward to be the paunchy America we have now.
Ironically, I read most of this book during mealtimes and found that the descriptions could be off-putting for one’s appetite. On the other hand, when I wasn’t eating, the loving descriptions of daal and other foods were mouth-watering.
One point that Chaudry raises, which has reared its head in many forms lately, is the whole topic of fat shaming or not supporting body positivity. As Chaudry grapples with exercise and new ways of eating and losing the weight she’s been fighting with for her entire life, she is accused of not supporting body positivity. First off, I think that anyone who loses their weight and finds a happier and healthier life is to be admired and should not be made to feel shame because of someone else’s insecurities. The mere fact that someone tries to shame another’s successful weight loss makes me think the whole body positivity thing may have a few dents in it. Don’t we all want to have the strongest, healthiest, and happiest bodies that we can? Shouldn’t we applaud each other’s efforts to become the best that we can be? (Okay, soapbox kicked aside.)
Fortunately for readers who love to cook and want to make some of the foods Chaudry describes, she has included recipes at the end of the book. After reading so much about her chai, I can’t wait to make it, especially on these chilly Autumn/Winter days.
As for that last topic covered, family: Chaudry’s love for her family shines through, especially for her parents, Ami and Abu, her Aunt whose wedding she attends in Pakistan who loves Rabia unconditionally, unjudgmentally, her grandfather, Dada Abu who adores her. Warmth and love is palpable throughout her descriptions and the reader feels that and is left with their own warm feelings.
Fatty Fatty Boom Boom is told with good humor, sometimes ruefulness, compassion, and thoughtfulness.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Rabia Chaudry is an attorney, advocate, podcaster, and executive producer of the four-part HBO documentary, The Case Against Adnan Syed, which was based on her New York Times bestselling book, Adnan’s Story. Chaudry is also co-producer and co-host of three podcasts, Undisclosed (360 million downloads), The 45th (four million downloads) and the new The Hidden Djinn. A 2021 Aspen Institute/ADL Civil Society Fellow and a 2016 Aspen Ideas Scholar, she serves on the Vanguard Board at the Aspen Institute. She is a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project, a Fellow of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, a Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, and a founding board member of the Inter-Jewish Muslim Alliance and the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council, both of which focus on building Muslim-Jewish coalitions around pressing policy issues and educating across communities to break barriers.