Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Garlic and Sapphires - Ruth Reichl

I have reviewed Reichl's two previous books Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me With Apples. This one is probably my favorite of the three, and the most focused on Reichl's job as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. Early on, Reichl realizes that her photograph is up in every NY restaurant, and that if she wants to have an authentic experience, she will need to adopt various costumes and personas. As she dons wigs and thrift-store clothing, even her closest friends and co-workers can't make her, but without hesitation, her five year old son runs to her everytime. While Reichl adjusts to the fame and power of her new position, and its constraints on her time, I found her nods to her relationship with her son to be some of the most touching, and not overplayed, moments in the book. The incidents with her husband, however, left me a little more worried for the family situation. In each of the chapters, Reichl recounts her experience at a given restaurant, she includes her actual reviews, and a few recipes of her own. At times the book is a bit too repetitious of the actual reviews - though it was interesting to see how Reichl transformed her numerous visits to a given restaurant into one review. At times Reichl seems a bit full of herself, but this actually becomes part of the memoir. When her husband warns that she is becoming the obnoxious person she once made fun of - Reichl is forced to evaluate whether her myriad costumes are meant as a disguise from the restaurant owners or from her own self.

1 comment:

Marji said...

Oh, this was my favorite as well. Not so much emphasis on dysfunctional behavior. Considering her background, you can't really blame her for not knowing who she really is. I thought the attempts at disguise were hilarious. And she made her son seem very secure in who he is -- he seemed to be a great supporter, and growing up normally.

I liked the fact that she chose "unknown" restaurants as well as the big names. And that she wanted an experience that her ordinary readers could expect -- not just what recognized restaurant reviewers or well-dressed, obviously well-connected people could expect.

I read this a few years ago, so I don't remember details, but it was a pleasure not to be reading about dysfunction. And to see how she had to fight the establishment to put forth her own views.