Notes on a Banana

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Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression


The stunning and long-awaited memoir from the beloved founder of the James Beard Award-winning website Leite’s Culinaria—a candid, courageous, and at times laugh-out-loud funny story of family, food, mental illness, and sexual identity.

Born into a family of Azorean immigrants, David Leite grew up in the 1960s in a devoutly Catholic, blue-collar, food-crazed Portuguese home in Fall River, Massachusetts. A clever and determined dreamer with a vivid imagination and a flair for the dramatic, “Banana” as his mother endearingly called him, yearned to live in a middle-class house with a swinging kitchen door just like the ones on television, and fell in love with everything French, thanks to his Portuguese and French-Canadian godmother. But David also struggled with the emotional devastation of manic depression. Until he was diagnosed in his mid-thirties, David found relief from his wild mood swings in learning about food, watching Julia Child, and cooking for others.

Notes on a Banana is his heartfelt, unflinchingly honest, yet tender memoir of growing up, accepting himself, and turning his love of food into an award-winning career. Reminiscing about the people and events that shaped him, David looks back at the highs and lows of his life: from his rejection of being gay and his attempt to “turn straight” through Aesthetic Realism, a cult in downtown Manhattan, to becoming a writer, cookbook author, and web publisher, to his twenty-four-year relationship with Alan, known to millions of David’s readers as “The One,” which began with (what else?) food. Throughout the journey, David returns to his stoves and tables, and those of his family, as a way of grounding himself.

A blend of Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, the food memoirs by Ruth Reichl, Anthony Bourdain, and Gabrielle Hamilton, and the character-rich storytelling of Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris, and Jenny Lawson, Notes on a Banana is a feast that dazzles, delights, and, ultimately, heals.

Media Inquiries

Sharyn Rosenblum
Dey Street Books
Sharyn.Rosenblum [at] harpercollins [dot] com


  1. I ACCIDENTALLY came across your hummingbird feeder recipe on my listed Google articles. A place I never view, let alone open a link. I IMMEDIATELY fell in love with your voice and started to read everything, shared links with my husband who is the chef in our home, and bookmarked your page. Then I saw “shop” and I thought “huh, a cookbook?” I then read about your struggle with depression. I have been diagnosed with bipolar several decades ago. I have now determined I need to be your neighbor, your female bestie, and I must stalk (your writings) till I know everything about you. THANK YOU for being you, sharing your culinary knowledge, and making it funny!

  2. Hey David,

    As a gay woman in culinary school suffering from anxiety and depression, your book was nothing but wonderful! Thank you for sharing your story!

  3. David, I ordered your book and can’t wait for it to arrive. I’ve been suffering from depression since the age of seven and now that I’m in my 50’s I’ve been looking for foods that may help me manage my health better so the mental health I’m getting won’t be in vain. It always helps when someone else admits they too suffer because that means they understand that depression is no joke and it is indeed a disease. I’m excited about learning ways to cook with recipes I’ve found here and hope I learn a whole new lifestyle in regards to foods. I’ve been curious about different flavors, plant based ideas, etc, glad to find your page.

    1. Donna, I am so sorry that you are suffering. Depression and its attendant illnesses are an awful thing to endure. My book doesn’t have recipes, but I think you will find comfort in its words. Have you looked into the book The Mood Cure? Also, check out the work of Dr. Drew Ramsey.

  4. Hi David,

    I’ve been a reader and fan of Leite’s Culinaria (and of your legendary chocolate chip cookies) for so many years now, but read your memoir last fall and have been meaning to come here since then to tell you how moving and beautifully written it was. I’ve reread it many times and find it more inspiring each time. Thank you so much for sharing your story in your book, and for continually sharing your gift with us through your site and food writing.

  5. David,

    I knew nothing about you, Portugal, or manic depression. Saw your book in the “Staff Recommends” Section of my local library…The cover caught my eye, and I’ve spent the last three days enjoying your very candid book. Just finished it and then enjoyed your Christmas video with “The One!” I had never heard of the Azores Islands…Show Stopper!!!

    I send this quick note to simply say, well done and God Bless. I learned several things from your writing that will stay with me (some that will haunt me!). Just kidding, of course. Be well and have the happiest 2018!

    1. Jill, thank you for your very kind and lovely words. I’m honored you enjoyed the book. And I hope that you find here, on Leite’s Culinaria, many things that also interest you. Wishing you and yours a wonderful 2018!

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