“I’m a glutton in a greyhound’s body, a walking contradiction, in the grip of the one thing I can’t have—food.”
Food is not just sustenance. It is memories, a lobster roll on the beach in Maine; heritage, hot pastrami club with a half-sour pickle; guilty pleasures, a chocolate rum-soaked Bundt cake; identity, vegetarian or carnivore. Food is the sensuality of a ripe strawberry or a pork chop sizzling on the grill. But what if the very thing that keeps you alive, that bonds us together and marks occasions in our lives, became a toxic substance, an inflammatory invader? In this beautifully written memoir, both gut-wrenching and inspiring, award-winning writer Jon Reiner explores our complex and often contradictory relationship with food as he tells the story of his agonizing battle with Crohn’s disease—and the extraordinary places his hunger and obsession with food took him.
The Man Who Couldn’t Eat is an unvarnished account of a marriage in crisis, children faced with grown-up fears, a man at a life-and-death crossroads sifting through his past and his present. And it shows us a tough, courageous climb out of despair and hopelessness. Aided by the loving kindness of family, friends, and strangers and by a new approach to food, Reiner began a process of healing in body and mind. Most of all, he chose life—and a renewed appetite, any way he could manage it, for the things that truly matter most.
In this engrossing and candid memoir, James Beard Award winning writer Reiner tells of his doctor's orders following a diagnosis of a torn intestine: eat nothing. Reiner, who at age 46 had a history of Crohn's disease, gets even more bad news when emergency surgery results in a severely infected abdomen, among other complications, that force him to get his nutrition intravenously. The bulk of the book is given over to the singular experience of not eating at all and the graphic details of his treatment, while chronicling its impact on the author, his wife, and his two young sons. He endures a feverish dream of food-related memories from his childhood in the Caribbean and his adulthood in New York. Questions of mortality and even suicide arise, and while the immediate ability to taste does not return, the narrator's capacity for eating solid food eventually does, though swinging at times between extremes of hunger and appetite. Reiner's use of detail amid the haze of sickness sometimes tests the suspension of disbelief, but as a piece of writing it's fearless and singular.
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The Man Who Couldn't Eat