Padma Lakshmi’s life is certainly something to write about, so it’s fortuitously appropriate that the Indian-born TV host, model, actress, and author has published her first memoir, ‘Love, Loss, and What We Ate.’ The New York Times best-selling book doesn’t shy away from details about Lakshmi’s eventful life, from her childhood and modeling days, to her marriage to Salman Rushdie, and the affair that led to one of the best joy of her life – motherhood. Naturally, the book weaves a motif of food throughout, tying in nicely the idea that life is full of flavors. After an excerpt reading of the memoir at NeueHouse Madison Square, Lakshmi answered some questions for us, touching upon everything from re-focusing insecurities into skills and the happiness of having nothing to do.
NeueJournal: This memoir was difficult for you to write because of its incredibly personal nature. What enabled you to finally write the book?
Padma Lakshmi: It evolved from a book I was commissioned to write on healthy eating. The deeper I went in the subject matter and the more context I gave, the more I realized a narrative arc was taking shape, and that this was becoming more of a memoir, punctuated by food.
NJ: In the book you talk about insecurities of all types and learning to overcome them. Do you think this pressure comes more from an outward place or an inward place? How do you feel women, particularly, can learn to overcome these societal pressures?
PL: That’s a hard question- I suppose it comes technically from both places. You can’t control the images the media feeds you, and at the same time, it’s hard not to internalize ideals that we’re constantly being fed, consciously as well as subliminally. The only way to overcome these types of insecurities as women is to find something more important that defines you. Find a skill, and hone it. Move your energy from focusing on what you don’t have to building upon what you do.
NJ: Looking back, what is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from your experiences?
PL: That life is cyclical, and nothing lasts forever. Not the good, not the bad, not even the ugly. I’ve also learned that even the difficult times I’ve gone through or the mistakes I’ve made have great value, because they shaped who I am.
NJ: If you could re-live a moment in your life, which would it be and why?
PL: I suppose the only thing I would want to relive is my daughter’s life as a toddler. Or maybe getting on The New York Times best-seller list?
NJ: What do you consider your biggest achievement?
PL: Personally, my child. Professionally, this memoir.
NJ: In your opinion, what is the worst question women in entertainment industries get asked?
PL: How we women ‘manage it all.’ No one ever asks a man how he balances a career with making time for his family.
NJ: What is the last thing you ate? What is the last thing you cooked?
PL: I just ate my way through Paris with my daughter, who herself ate half the macaroons in Paris. And then I promptly returned home and made lentils and rice.
NL: If you could describe your life at the moment with a food dish, which would it be?
PL: A stew of some kind, where everything has been cooking for a while, and I finally feel like the different elements have simmered together into this memoir.
NJ: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
PL: Misery is an empty fridge.
NJ: What does happiness mean to you? When and where are you happiest?
PL: Happiness is a Sunday where I don’t have to be anywhere or do anything, and I am just free to spend the whole day with my daughter, cooking in the kitchen.
Photography: Manolo Campion for NeueJournal