Ruth Reichl's first book, the autobiographical Tender at the Bone
, disarmed readers with its droll candor. The former restaurant critic of The New York Times
and editor in chief of Gourmet
magazine told great stories about growing up and loving food. Comfort Me with Apples
begins where the first book ended, tracing Reichl's evolution from chef to food writer while detailing the dissolution of her first marriage, the start of a second, and motherhood at the age of 40. The book also limns a sensual journey, Reichl's awakening to the pleasures of sex as well as food, and also to love. Reichl interweaves her diverse coming-of-age narratives with passion (especially on the subject of food), wit, and a no-nonsense grace, all of which add up to a wonderful read--entertaining, but moving, too.
The story begins when Reichl, living in a '70s Berkeley commune, gets her first real job as a restaurant reviewer. Despite the incredulity of her in-the-movement roommates ("You're going to spend your life telling spoiled, rich people where to eat?" asks one), Reichl persists, traveling widely to polish her palate. In the doing she meets food luminaries such as Wolfgang Puck (a mad encounter in a produce market), M.F.K. Fisher (lunch and sweet reminiscences), and Alice Waters (a garlic feast), among others. Her trip to China, which includes clandestine dealings with a former chef, is particularly well handled. The ungluing of her first marriage is depicted in adroit emotional counterpoint to her soaring career, as is her discovery of love with her second husband, unspooled against her father's death. Reichl also provides recipes, such as Fall Mushroom Soup (made to comfort herself and her mother) that, unexpectedly and delightfully, deepen the narrative. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
In this follow-up to the excellent memoir Tender at the Bone, Reichl (editor-in-chief at Gourmet) displays a sure hand, an open heart and a highly developed palate. As one might expect of a celebrated food writer, Reichl maps her past with delicacies: her introduction to a Dacquoise by a lover on a trip to Paris; the Dry-Fried Shrimp she learned to make on a trip to China, every moment of which was shared with her adventurous father, ill back home, in letters; the Apricot Pie she made for her first husband as their bittersweet marriage slowly crumbled; the Big Chocolate Cake she made for the man who would become her second, on his birthday. Recipes are included, but the text is far from fluffy food writing. Never shying from difficult subjects, Reichl grapples masterfully with the difficulty of ending her first marriage to a man she still loved, but from whom she had grown distant. Perhaps the most beautifully written passages here are those describing Reichl and her second husband's adoption and then loss of a baby whose biological mother handed over her daughter, then recanted before the adoption was final. This is no rueful read, however. Reichl is funny when describing how the members of her Berkeley commune reacted to the news that she was going to become a restaurant reviewer ("You're going to spend your life telling spoiled, rich people where to eat too much obscene food?"), and funnier still when pointing out the pompousness of fellow food insiders. Like a good meal, this has a bit of everything, and all its parts work together to satisfy. (on sale Apr. 10) Forecast: Even more appetizing than Tender at the Bone, this volume is bound to visit bestseller lists.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.