How "The Godfather" was a Major Step in My Recovery


Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 classic probably isn’t a traditional step in eating disorder recovery, but what I’ve found during the complicated and confusing road to recovery is that it’s more often than not customizable.

While some steps are broad and remain constant for everyone, the detailed components to these steps are variable.

For me, it was a token of encouragement being told to, “take the cannoli.”

It was so much more than a cannoli, though. The ricotta-filled dessert was freedom, made even sweeter by Rota’s menacing composition playing in the background.


I grew up on the Godfather, sneaking downstairs while my dad was watching it just so I could get a glimpse—albeit my crush on Brando fueled my petulance—I was intrigued by it all…the characters, the direction, the food.

Okay, so maybe one can argue that The Godfather is about family—I wouldn’t disagree.  

But this poses the very real question—How does one think of family without thinking about food?

One of my film professors at Syracuse University—the illustrious Richard Dubin—highlighted a moment in the film when the family is taking a wedding picture and Vito insists at the absence of his son, “We’re not taking the picture without Michael,” and aha! There literally isn’t a picture without Michael. Maybe the family is greater than the sum of its parts, but Michael ironically, would be the focus of that picture for years.

But forgetting duty and familial systems, doesn’t it always go back to food? How many episodes of the Sopranos did we circle back to Tony negotiating over veal marsala at Vesuvio’s? Even Sex and the City did this. Flashback to Carrie at the coffee shop canceling her rice pudding after less than savory girl talk, or how about Seinfeld’s Monk’s meeting ground?  


It always goes back to food, because not only does food foster relationships, but we also need it to sustain life.

This is why eating disorder recovery is so difficult. Unlike addiction recovery, we need food to live. While we can restrict, we can’t avoid it, but we can—and this has been a major epiphany for me—change our relationship with food.

I can pinpoint the exact moment I realized this. I’d watched The Godfather countless times, maybe hundreds, but it was around 3 AM with my laptop on my bed next to me a few years ago watching the Corleone boys talk over spaghetti with their napkins tucked into their shirts that I realized—I want pasta.

Not only did I want it, but I was going to have it. I’ve had this thought before, maybe not while watching The Godfather, but the result would be the same. I’d eat the pasta at 3 AM, followed by shame, guilt, and probably more. But for some reason, Coppola et al., made a point about using food as a backdrop for discussing who’s getting wacked, or maybe Samantha’s latest escapade, but food makes it to the screen for a reason.

It binds us, it makes us human, and surprise, surprise, it tastes really good.

Scared I was going to use behaviors, I woke my mom up and asked her to sit with me while I ate. She ate with me. It probably wasn’t as good as the Corleone dinner and I didn’t plan on venturing out to the Jones Beach Causeway after, but it was a huge step for me. I ate, I enjoyed it, and nothing else happened. I was good.

I think possibly everyone has a moment similar to this during recovery. It doesn’t need to be exactly like mine, it can even be a period of time, but it’s there.

One of the first things I learned during recovery was that I gave food too much power, but I started to realize that maybe it was that I was giving food the wrong type of power. Food does have power. It has the power to connect and sustain.


About the author: Abby Elyssa

I’ve been battling an eating disorder since the age of nine. I want to inspire young ones to seek help and stay on the path to recovery because it does happen, regardless of how impossible it seems.

I am a Syracuse University graduate with a journalism/English degree. Currently, I’m a magazine writer in Long Island, New York. When I’m not writing, i’m probably watching the Yankees or eating a burger. 


Charlotte KurzComment