Thank you to Sarah, at Sarah’s Book Shelves for bringing this book to my attention!
I love cooking, I’m a foodie as much as possible where I am stuck living, and enjoy travel and trying new things, so this book checked every one of those boxes. I used to love Gourmet before I became a parent and lost the disposable income to enjoy such publications! I had not heard of Ruth though, she took over at a rough time in my life in which I had my head down surviving the demise of a law firm and transitioning to another that was a terrible fit. That survived, my kids arrived. And by then (2003) the internet was taking over life.
Ruth Reichl began cooking life in Berkley before becoming the restaurant critic at first the L.A. Times and then the N.Y. Times before being asked to become the editor of Gourmet for it’s final decade or so. She is now very well known (to all, but me!) as a chef, editor, foodie.
Her book tells of the process and ideas that went into modernizing Gourmet in 2000s. Her personal approach to running the magazine, the creative cast of characters on the staff, the eccentric Conde-Nast owner, and all the rest that went into the “book” in those years are covered in a fun, fly-on-the-wall style that I enjoyed greatly. It made me sad I had missed those years of the magazine for the most part (I did find a 200X issue with pizza as the cover story in my cookbook shelves!).
I loved hearing about how they worked at Gourmet. I also enjoyed hearing about her life in New York–something almost unimaginable to me! I found her personality appealing and liked the sound of her husband and son as well. I envied her trying all of those amazing restaurants over the years and then landing in a job with an on-site test kitchen with a staff harboring perfectionist-tendencies! A dream!
I remember working with technology in those years and being so unsure of what to invest in and what to skip in my job, that I felt it wasn’t at all surprising that a traditional magazine would struggle here and there with the same choices. It was at that time, too, that lavish lunches, expense accounts and all the other trappings of office began to be nickled and dimed out of existence–taking the fun out of many jobs, including, eventually, Ruth’s. I was especially sad, reading the story of the Christmas issue that never would be, that we were denied the opportunity to see all the creativity that went into that superb-sounding 5-layer cover with all those great cookies on it!
This was not a cookbook, but a few recipes were given–you can find them here. Over the weekend, I made the Spicy Noodles and, though they required a trip to the fabulous Jungle Jim’s for some of the ingredients, they are a keeper! I plan to make the chili soon, in spite of the 90-degree heat here.
I will be reading more of her books and trying out more of her recipes!
Save Me The Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
I listened to the audiobook.