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Five Questions for Christine O'Brien


Photo by Lisa Keating Photography

In her new book, Crave: A Memoir of Food and Longing, Walnut Creek resident Christine O’Brien, a lecturer at Saint Mary’s College of California, recounts her unusual childhood with an angry, powerful father—he created ABC’s Wide World of Sports—and a mother who imposed a stringent food regimen on the family (meals included blended salad, celery juice, nuts, and raw egg yolks). Here, O’Brien discusses the value of balance and opening up about her painful past. 


Q: How do you enjoy the East Bay’s many dining options given your complex relationship with food?

A: I love that Walnut Creek and its surrounds offer dining at its finest. Anything I want or “crave” is at my fingertips. … There is so much healthy fare offered now, I don’t feel I’m compromising any belief systems when we eat out. We love Maria Maria in Walnut Creek. I love Chow in Lafayette. I’m a big fan of Coffee Shop and of Papillon. Each passing day brings more peace and ease for me around food.


Q: How does life in Walnut Creek compare to Beverly Hills or New York?

A: All my childhood, I longed for wildness; I wanted to live where nature felt more powerful than the humans living in it. Beverly Hills is lovely but manicured. … I adored living in Manhattan, but also felt trapped in a man-made world of concrete. Now, I live against Shell Ridge and our windows look out at Mount Diablo. I walk in the open space almost daily. I appreciate that Walnut Creek offers the wildness of nature and yet provides everything I love in a city.


Q: Who should play you in the movie version of Crave?

A: How about Dafne Keen for a young me? She has the brooding quality yet underlying optimism I would relate to my younger self. And Reese Witherspoon for the adult me. As long as she was playing [me as Wild author] Cheryl Strayed, why not?


Q: How do you define good health?

A: After watching my mother follow all the rules for health but never really achieve health, I have come to the conclusion that to experience real health one must incorporate balance. For me, every day feels like an opportunity to adjust. … I define good health—mental, spiritual, and physical—as the seeking and appreciation of balance.


Q: How did sharing your story so publicly impact you?

A: It’s terrifying, but also the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. I love that the world seems to be listening to women’s stories now. … It’s amazing to see this wonderful girl-power energy being loosed into the world. I feel honored to be a part of that.


To learn more about O’Brien and Crave, visit christinescherickobrien.com.


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