JON REINER / The Man Who Couldn't Eat

Monday, October 17, 2011 - 7:30pm

There are a few essential things that make us human.

Take away sex and you fill a man with desire.

Take away breath and a man suffocates.

Take away food and things start to get serious.


In THE MAN WHO COULDN’T EAT, Jon Reiner – a James Beard Foundation Award-winning writer – chronicles his three-month struggle to live without food. 



On February 13, 2009, Reiner had just returned home with the week’s groceries – a task he enjoyed as part of his role as stay-at-home dad – when a near-fatal complication from his chronic battle with Crohn’s disease left him writhing in pain on the floor and in desperate need of medical attention.  After emergency surgery, Reiner was “sentenced” to TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition): an exclusively intravenous means of receiving nourishment.  As Reiner writes, “NPO is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase nil per os, which translates roughly to ‘nothing by mouth.’  For a hospital patient, an NPO order is a condemnation.  It translates more personally to: ‘starving on an intravenous drip while your roommate groans over the vulcanized chicken, limp penne, and lumpy custard on his tray.”


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, 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.


"I have spent years of my life obsessing about my weight, feeling guilt over every mouthful. Jon Reiner's magnificent and devastating memoir, The Man Who Couldn't Eat, accomplished the impossible. It made me shut up and enjoy my food." -- Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road


Jon Reiner won the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Magazine Feature Writing with Recipes for the collaborative Esquire article "How Men Eat." His memoir is based on an acclaimed article of the same name that he wrote for Esquire in 2009. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.


SheKnows names The Man Who Couldn't Eat one of the hottest fall books!