New York Times
restaurant critic Ruth Reichl shares lessons learned at the hands (and kitchen counters) of family members and friends throughout her life, from growing up with her taste-blind mother to the comfort of cream puffs while away at boarding school on "Mars" (Montreal seemed just as far away) to her most memorable meal, taken on a mountainside in Greece.
Her stories shine with the voices and recipes of those she has encountered on the way, such as her Aunt Birdie's maid and companion, Alice, who first taught Reichl both the power of cooking and how to make perfect apple dumplings; the family's mysterious patrician housekeeper, Mrs. Peavey, who always remembered to make extra pastry for the beef Wellington; Serafina, the college roommate with whom Reichl explored a time of protest and political and personal discovery; and, finally, cookbook author Marion Cunningham, who, after tales of her midlife struggles and transformation, gave Reichl the strength to overcome her own anxieties.
Reichl's wry and gentle humor pervades the book, and makes readers feel as if they're right at the table, laughing at one great story after another (and delighting in a gourmet meal at the same time, of course). Reichl's narrative of a life lived and remembered through the palate will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.
From Publishers Weekly
Reichl discovered early on that since she wasn't "pretty or funny or sexy," she could attract friends with food instead. But that initiative isn't likely to secure her an audience for her chaotic, self-satisfied memoirs, although her restaurant reviews in the New York Times are popular. Reichl's knack for describing food gives one a new appreciation for the pleasures of the table, as when she writes here: "There were eggplants the color of amethysts and plates of sliced salami and bresaola that looked like stacks of rose petals left to dry." But when she is recalling her life, she seems unable to judge what's interesting. Raised in Manhattan and Connecticut by a docile father who was a book designer and a mother who suffered from manic depression, Reichl enjoyed such middle-class perks as a Christmas in Paris when she was 13 and high school in Canada to learn French. But her mother was a blight, whom Reichl disdains to the discomfort of the reader who wonders if she exaggerates. The author studied at the University of Michigan, earned a graduate degree in art history, married a sculptor named Doug, lived in a loft in Manhattan's Bowery and then with friends bought a 17-room "cottage" in Berkeley, Calif., which turned into a commune so self-consciously offbeat that their Thanksgiving feast one year was prepared from throwaways found in a supermarket dumpster. Seasoning her memoir with recipes, Reichl takes us only through the 1970s, which seems like an arbitrary cutoff, and one hopes the years that followed were more engaging than the era recreated here.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.