Book Review

Book Review: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

I’m going to go ahead and admit I’m totally new to the foodie scene. I don’t know most famous chefs, cooking TV shows personalities, or food writers. Though I had heard of Ruth Reichl, I didn’t know anything about her career or what to expect from her memoir, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Food Critic (my Amazon affiliate program link).

It appears that the general pitch as to why you should read this book is because of all the strange disguises and characters Ruth Reichl would create to avoid being recognized in New York City restaurants while she worked as The New York Times’ restaurant critic in the 1990s. While they were entertaining, I felt like there was so much more to the book than that. Reichl is a great story teller and she really pulls the reader in, even if you don’t know the first thing about the restaurants or food she’s talking about. Sprinkled throughout her memoir are the actual reviews she wrote for The New York Times, as well as unpretentious recipes for everyday home cooking. You might think being paid to eat at fancy restaurants is the best job ever (like I did), but Garlic and Sapphires is a thoughtful reflection on elitism, office politics, and one woman’s struggle with finding her real priorities and passions.

Reichl included a recipe for spaghetti carbonara, which is such a classic, yet I’ve surprisingly only had it once! And as much as I’d like to get my pork jowl on, I already had bacon in the fridge so I followed her lead and used that instead. So simple but so tasty.

On an unrelated note, this book reminded me of that 80s Steve Martin movie, The Lonely Guy. If my memory serves me correctly, his lonely guy buddy tells him he can eat out at restaurants by himself if he pretends he’s a restaurant critic. A silly movie, but I like this scene when he first walks into the restaurant:

Please check out the book club I joined, The Kitchen Reader, and Marian’s blog, Spelt for Choice.

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7 thoughts on “Book Review: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

  1. Pingback: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl: August Round-Up | The Kitchen Reader

  2. Hi Iris, so delighted you agree with me on Ruth Reichl’s writing style. The Lonely Guy excerpt if just great, I’m after bursting out laughing here. Thankfully nowadays eating out is more acceptable, Ipads and iPhones etc make it more enjoyable too. Marian

      • I tend to stick to the more casual restaurants so going on your own isn’t such a big deal. Once I have the book or access to the internet it doesn’t bother me. I have to extra picky now with intolerances and tend to steer clear of fancy restaurants as they tend to cover everything in butter or salt and cream. No joy for me. You should try it in places like this so much fun. It’s great for writing blog posts a great change from staring at a wall (well in my case!)

  3. I really enjoyed the book, too. I found it a bit funny that the book included home cooking recipes. I guess restaurant-style recipes wouldn’t be as useful to me, but they might have been interesting. I did love how knowledgeable Reichl was about different cuisines.

    • I thought so too, but towards the end of the book you kind of understand why, especially as she talks about falling back in love with cooking and her shifting priorities.

  4. Pingback: Book Review: The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten | Eating Clean in the Dirty City

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