The title of this book caught my attention even before I knew who wrote it. ”Are You Hungry, Dear?: Life, Laughs, and Lasagna” is written by Doris Roberts, the actress who played Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond. The 525-pages are filled with motherly advice, how she became an actress, and all about her life. But that is not all, each chapter is ended with a personal recipe that goes so well with the topic of the preceding chapter! I found this book easy to read and wonderfully presented, as if the grandmother I never had was telling me about the lessons she learned in life and giving me advice personally!
In the preface, she explains where the title came from. She says women through the ages have been asking this question of their loved ones and translated it means: Is there anything I can do for you? The first chapters are about how she was picked to be on Everyone Loves Raymond and how the part suited her perfectly. She says Marie Barone symbolizes mothers everywhere once their children are married! She speaks about her childhood, how she was abandoned by her father, raised by uncaring relatives who ignored her, and a mother who never praised her. What really stuck out to me in this part is she never had a bed or bedroom to sleep in. Always in the kitchen, in a crib, or a couch in the living room, or some other place, but never her own space. This probably was one of the main reasons she married young and quickly after meeting someone. I know that I would want to get away from that family as well! Doris Roberts said in the book that back then teenagers did not have sex until after marriage and this was one reason why.
From an early age, she wanted to be an actress. It is unbelievable the obstacles she overcame to break through in Hollywood and on stage. With a mother discouraging her and condemning any chance at a small part, it is a wonder anything came of her dreams. She was such a strong woman, even when she was so young, that she kept on going. Doris Roberts talks about going to therapy for years because of those early years.
Her son turned out to be something of a daredevil, always getting hurt and being in the hospital. Then her second husband was an alcoholic; just when he stopped drinking, they found out that he had leukemia and died soon after. Through the book, she talks about allowing joy into your life no matter how bad the circumstances. That she used to growl and grumble around and then found this closed her off to new joyful experiences and pushed people away. “I am a survivor,” she says over and over. That belief in herself turned out to push her forward even through many disappointments in getting parts. Chapter 29 is all about her father; one line says it all and that is all there is to the chapter: “The man that had the sperm with the tail that made the journey.” The next chapter (chapter 30) she talks about meeting her father once, but that was it. She says women wait on “Big Daddy” to come in and rescue them and that she did too. Her advice to is to let that fantasy go and depend on yourself, that you will not fall apart.
At the end of the book she talks about age discrimination and how she spoke in front of Congress about it. Hollywood is not the only place doing it. Older people are not allowed to take jobs or given the respect that they deserve. Doris Roberts discusses how some countries respect their elders greatly, but in this country, elderly people are seen as basically useless. The best line in the whole book I think was when asked what she wanted, Doris Roberts said “a man dipped in chocolate” combining her two great loves: food and men. There is also a chapter about her still having sex and yes, elderly people still can and do. Her recipes vary from baked clams to “My Meat Sauce to Stuffed Roasted Chilies with Tequila Shrimp” and many more after each chapter. Oh, and also a chapter tells about her trip on a safari where she came eye to eye with a wild animal! This women is truly fearless!
The middle of ”Are You Hungry, Dear?: Life, Laughs, and Lasagna” has black and white snapshots of Doris Roberts as a young child, her family, different pictures of her during her career, and her mother. I loved the tone of the book and felt that Doris Roberts was sitting in my living room with me having a friendly chat. I have seen other reviews on this book that said she gave too much advice, but I did not feel that way at all. I loved the bits and pieces of advice sprinkled throughout. That was one of the best parts of the book, I felt! A great book that did take time to read as she made me hungry talking about food so much. The pages are not in chronological order and do seem to jump around some. After reading the book, I feel that I know this spunky grandmother personally! I just felt odd reading about her sex life at age 70.
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