Friday, January 14, 2011

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

So this memoir begins as Ruth Reichl accepts a job as a food critic for the New York Times. It is a good combination of her experiences, her reviews, and recipes. I think it is well put together and was an interesting read. I've marked several recipes to copy and try.  I think I'm trying her Spaghetti Carbonara next week.

Ruth developed characters complete with costumes, personalities and back stories in order to eat at restaurants without receiving special treatment.  In fact, she often went in disguise, then again as herself.  It was entertaining, if not surprising, to read the differences in the food and experience.

Sometimes the story is just a little too tidy and hard to believe things happened in the way they did.  As I was reading, that bugged me a few different times.  When Dan asks her to the exact restaurant she needed to eat at again, I just felt annoyed.  In her Acknowledgements in the back of the book she talks about exaggerating, combining several days into one, and changing people around.  I think if I knew she admitted that upfront I wouldn't have had problems with the less believable parts.

I loved reading her descriptions of food and the actual reviews that she reprints in this book.  She has an amazing talent for description and you really can almost taste it as you read.  Just like Gourmet Rhapsody, it made me hungary!  This type of writing is obviously her best.

"I felt the sea urchin slide beneath my tongue, as subtle and sneaky as the glow of a buttercup under your chin, and then admired the pop of the caviar as it was crushed beneath my teeth."

"The sun poured from the sky like honey, and people threw back their heads and drank it in."

The characters and story are interesting, but I just didn't feel as connected as I do in other books.  Because she is vague with time, I wasn't sure how old her son was at different times.  Carol who didn't seem like much of a player in the first part of the book is suddenly really important, and I was trying to remember exactly who she was.  The story ended up feeling a little disjointed to me. 

Her husband is bothered by her one-upping an annoying dinner guest one night and tells her she was reminding him of a line from a T.S.Eliot poem, "Garlic and sapphires in the mud."   I looked up the Quartet and it didn't seem to direcly relate.  That being said, I like the title she chose for her book, and I hope he really said that and that she didn't make it up later to be clever.

I enjoyed reading this book, I might even look up other books Ruth Reichl has written. 

I liked it, but I didn't love it.

1 comment:

Sharlene, Mom, Grammy said...

Very interesting review. Hmmmm. to read or not to read.

But I'll be to your house next week for Spaghetti Carbonara. What time? :)