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Publisher's Summary

A vivid memoir of food and family, survival and triumph, Love, Loss, and What We Ate traces the arc of Padma Lakshmi's unlikely path from an immigrant childhood to a complicated life in front of the camera - a tantalizing blend of Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone and Nora Ephron's Heartburn.

Long before Padma Lakshmi ever stepped onto a television set, she learned that how we eat is an extension of how we love, how we comfort, how we forge a sense of home - and how we taste the world as we navigate our way through it. Shuttling between continents as a child, she lived a life of dislocation that would become habit as an adult, never quite at home in the world. And yet, through all her travels, her favorite food remained the simple rice she first ate sitting on the cool floor of her grandmother's kitchen in South India.

Poignant and surprising, Love, Loss, and What We Ate is Lakshmi's extraordinary account of her journey from that humble kitchen, ruled by ferocious and unforgettable women, to the judges' table of Top Chef and beyond. It chronicles the fierce devotion of the remarkable people who shaped her along the way, from her headstrong mother, who flouted conservative Indian convention to make a life in New York, to her Brahmin grandfather - a brilliant engineer with an irrepressible sweet tooth - to the man seemingly wrong for her in every way who proved to be her truest ally. A memoir rich with sensual prose and punctuated with evocative recipes, it is alive with the scents, tastes, and textures of a life that spans complex geographies both internal and external.

Love, Loss, and What We Ate is an intimate and unexpected story of food and family - both the ones we are born to and the ones we create - and their enduring legacies.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 Padma Lakshmi (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"The host of 'Top Chef' narrates her memoir as if she's telling her story to a trusted friend. She sounds expressive and vulnerable--revealing mistakes with a tone of regret, letting her love shine through the voices she creates for beloved family members, and enthusing about her passion for food, fashion, and travel." ( AudioFile)

Featured Article: Hungry for Inspiration? Here Are the Best Listens for Foodies


Food offers more than just sustenance: it’s a way to connect with others, to fine-tune a skillset, and to savor some of life’s simplest pleasures. Sharing a meal that you’ve put your heart into or gathering around a communal table offers a unique sense of warmth and togetherness that just can’t be replicated anywhere else. Whether you're looking for cooking inspiration or memoirs from your favorite chefs, these audiobooks are sure to satisfy.

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What listeners say about Love, Loss, and What We Ate

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Touching, Deep, Surprising, and Inspiring

I bought this book kind of "by mistake" when I inadvertently clicked on it. I thought about returning it but since I am a firm believer in the 'messages we receive from the Universe', I didn't, and I am very happy that I kept it.

This lady's story is very touching and one that many women -and men- can relate to.
To be frank, it even brought me to tears a couple of times, but then again, it was also joyful and entertaining, and may I say, a little bit of a reality check.

The appendix to her story was a surprise, and I was also very happy that she included a pdf with some delicious recipes.

She has a soft, nice voice which makes it a very enjoyable listen.

I do recommend Padma Lakshmi's book.

#happiestmistake #realitycheck #inspiring #relatable #delish #delicious #tagsgiving #sweepstakes



19 people found this helpful

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Not what I expected

I was immediately surprised at the exceptional narration. Expressive and believable. Padma’s impressions of her mother, other family members, and of her partner Teddy made me smile. She really could have yet another career in narration. I've watched all the episodes of Top Chef--some several times--and knew that she had much knowledge about cooking. She has several nice cookbooks and this book confirms her expertise. I'm not a great fan of Indian food, but Padma’s descriptions of her family’s kitchen and the loving way they prepared the complex dishes compels me to make a list and go to our top-rated Indian restaurant and see if they have them.

Padma’s descriptions of her agonizing endometriosis is wrenching and now I want to re-watch the seasons of Top Chef to try and figure out what was going on in her life at the time certain episodes were filmed. She sure soldiered through them. My only concern with this story is her insecurities. Rushdie seems to be an arrogant misogynist and no matter his intellect, talent, and fame, I cannot fathom her attraction to him. He berated her for claiming to be in pain and he never was happy for her successes. Teddy came across as a lovely, honest, and very older man. Dell is portrayed as a petulant child. Her dalliance with more than one man at a time was unfortunate, yet understandable considering her life events. It’s too bad she got criticized for that. Some call her selfish and calculating. I did not see that in her. Men get away with that every day. (Maybe this is why she wrote the book?) On the other hand, she does admit in the book that she has Daddy Issues, so there you go. It seems weird to me that she does not seem to know what she actually looks like. Who even notices the scar?

A few reviewers were bored with her tales of baby Krishna but I liked hearing what she was fed and why. Her love for her family shines through this entire book. What is lacking: I wanted more information about Top Chef. Still, this is an entertaining and educational listen and is great inspiration to make pickles.

11 people found this helpful

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I Loved This One! Padma is great!

After watching her host Top Chef for years, I had to satisfy my curiosity. Who IS this woman and does she know anything about food or is she just there for her looks and sex appeal (never have I seen so much cleavage than during those big chef dinners!)

Padma tells all. She is incredibly open and honest about her life--her romances, her medical issues, her family, how she got to where she is, how difficult it is to eat all that food and stay slim, etc. etc. etc.

Oh, and yes, she does know alot about food! Lucky for you and me, she shares some of her favorite Indian down-home comfort food recipes with us in a pdf.

Padma narrates her memoir which is as it should be. All in all, I really loved this book and highly recommend it!

10 people found this helpful

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interesting life, wish the pacing was better

I was in chapter 1 and unsure about continuing.....not a good sign. but a few chapters in, I was going with it.
strict vegans and serious vegetarians are probably not going to like this book with all the eating of animal flesh and live seafood talked about.
Adam seems like a real tool and so did Salman Rushdie, who was oblivious to her physical pain.
Things I liked: some great stories of her family, modeling, cooking, and food hosting life, ch 19 has a bunch of her recipes which I thought was really cool, the bare vulnerability.
Things I didn’t like: pacing issues (again which seems common in nonfiction), it could have been a lot tighter story and much more dramatic, she didn't include the scene with Adam's visit and telling him the news about the baby, there was no discussion of Teddy’s funeral which was weird (maybe she wasn’t invited?), also thought it was weird she didn’t include a thank you (unless I missed it) to Teddy since there was so much focus on him in the book along with everyone else she thanked at the back of the book.
another reviewer mentioned they felt that Padma came across as selfish (I think that is the word they used). I did not get that impression at all. anytime you’re reading an autobiography or nonfiction, it’s so important to remember that the choices and beliefs and lifestyles of the people you're reading about are NOT going to automatically be the same as yours. if you can’t be open to that, then maybe stay away from these types of books and stories.

4 people found this helpful

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decided not to finish

I put a lot of hours in but ultimately decided not worth finishing because the author seemed uninterested in taking any responsibility for her story. seemed to let herself off the hook. I enjoyed her on TV, but not in her book.

2 people found this helpful

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I wanted to like this but,

Rambling. Poorly written. Jumped around. Listened to it in the car. If I missed something I didn't care.

2 people found this helpful

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Love, Loss, and What We Ate

I wasn't sure what to expect. I hadn't needed to fret. Padma tells her story in such a way that you are drawn in deeply. She uses immense respect to describe and include, those affected or involved in her life. Her descriptions of scenery, scents and tastes are marvelous. Nicely written. Thank you for sharing your story.

2 people found this helpful

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Much more than you imagine it will be!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I might even insist my friends read it! This story is not even similar to any story that has been told before.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The author has the most generous heart,in making all of the other characters come to life and seem magical, without ever drawing your attention on her, after the first two chapters. In an odd way, the entire story at the end, seems not be about her at all, but about all of the others that crossed her path. The fact that she was able to take in so much about the people, the environments, the particles of humanity, inhumanity, systems, traditions, rituals symbols and cultures makes is remarkable. It is as if she was constantly doing the math and coming to the sum total and putting it all neatly in a column for review. To pass on, to you. Difficult not to think of them all as favorite characters.

What about Padma Lakshmi’s performance did you like?

There is a sincerity in her voice that is so full of truth, and an even sanity in her telling, without her own attitudes entwined in the telling, you forget you are reading (in this case, listening). She does not stand in between you and story with her own emotion. It is a very clear narration wherein you forget she is there because she is not imposing on you. If that makes any sense at all. She leaves you to have your experience with the story.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, became very disturbed when I had to recharge my ipod.

Any additional comments?

The book got off very slow for me right in the beginning. Sounded perhaps like a magazine article for the first few minutes. Once it went beyond her describing her physical illness, this book just took off like a Rudyard Kipling novel! As if she found her voice, that fast, boom! The stories of her youth in India, the way she brings you into the space of the people she describes, you can see them, smell them and yes, even feel them. By chapter five I was well, kind of shocked! As a constant cooking student, I watched many episodes of top chef while peeling potatoes and preparing meals. Her book, her story and her life are so much bigger than that show. I have never so wrongly underestimated someone in my life.

2 people found this helpful

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Wanted Depth- Didn't Find It

What disappointed you about Love, Loss, and What We Ate?

I found it to be predictable and more of a factual chronological telling of someone's life. I wanted to feel it with sensory details and also to get a sense of the unique meaning and purpose of her life. I just did not find anything special that set her life apart in a way that contributes to art, culture or a deeper understanding of the human condition. I made 3 hours in before giving up.

Has Love, Loss, and What We Ate turned you off from other books in this genre?

The writing was average and I think for a memoir to be interesting there must be some kind of focal point, point of view or voice that is intriguing.

2 people found this helpful

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Save Your Money

What a drama queen! Both her reading and her presentation of her life are over the top disingenuous like a Kardashian. If you want to read how casually this self-proclaimed vegetarian describes eating live snails presented in flower stalls and shrimp that are alive while her elderly, steak-eating boyfriend thinks they are playing tennis on their plates, go for it. And her endless whining about how she can't decide whom she misses more at any one time, her ex-husband, her 68 yr old boyfriend or the 40 year old Dell whose child she's pregnant with but wants to raise with the old man...I kept skipping over the chapters until I decided that I can't listen to this spoiled woman's stories anymore and returned the book. Whew!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-07-21

Amazing book, beautifully narrated

An incredible listen and insight into Padma’s life. The way the food elements are weaved through the story of her life is done to perfection.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-18-20

Beautifully narrated and perfect read for lockdown

Beautifully narrated and perfect read for lockdown! Listening to Padma every night has been a lifesaver for me during this lockdown period! Highly recommend to everyone, especially anyone who is a first or second generation migrant and has had to live in two different cultures!

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  • Annabelle
  • 05-22-19

Amazing book.

Loved every minute of listening to this. Padma was beautiful and her voice made you feel like you were in the book yourself. Beautifully written.