Martha Rosenberg: Your book is different from other memoirs because it focuses on food and even has recipes. Who do you think My Fat Dad will appeal to?
Dawn Lerman: My Fat Dad is based on my Column in the Well blog of the NY Times. The appeal of the stories ranges from young girls who can relate to my coming of age--finding my voice in a very colorful family, first love--to anyone who had an overweight parent or a grandparent who changed their life through home cooked food.
My 450-pound ad man father was one of the original "Mad Men." He was responsible for iconic slogans such as "Coke is It," "Leggo My Eggo," and, "Once You Pop You can't Stop." And my grandmother, Beauty, saved my life with her weekly recipe cards when we moved to Manhattan from Chicago when I was 9. I have pages and pages of emails from people all over the world, from China to India, to Florida for whom the book brought up memories of their own families, upbringings and foods.
Martha Rosenberg: A lot of time has elapsed since what you wrote about your dad and your grandmother, Beauty. I bet many people are wondering how they fared. I am almost afraid to ask but did your dad survive the lung cancer?
Dawn Lerman: Yes he did. He survived Stage 3 lung cancer and he is now 230 pounds. He has been a vegan for many years.
Martha Rosenberg: In your book you say he smoked as compulsively as he ate. Did he stop smoking when he got the cancer diagnosis?
Dawn Lerman: Actually, he had quit smoking ten years earlier but often people who smoked a lot and quit still get lung cancer. When my dad got diagnosed, I began sending him books and recipes to inspire him. Most of my life I tried to get my dad excited about eating healthy, but the temptations associated with his fast paced life style got the best of him.
Not wanting to die, and newly retired from the ad business, he focused on his health and his recovery with the same "gusto" he had put previously into his campaigns like " You Only Go Around Once in Life, So Grab The Gusto"--a famous tag line he wrote for Schlitz beer