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Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise Hardcover – April 7, 2005
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Fans of Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples know that Ruth Reichl is a wonderful memoirist--a funny, poignant, and candid storyteller whose books contain a happy mix of memories, recipes, and personal revelations.
More from Ruth Reichl
Tender at the Bone
Comfort Me with Apples
The Gourmet Cookbook
Remembrance of Things Paris
Amazon.com's The Significant Seven
Ruth Reichl answers the seven questions we ask every author.
Q: What book has had the most significant impact on your life?
A: Kate Simons New York Places and Pleasures. I read it as a little girl and then went out and wandered the city. She was a wonderful writer, and she taught me not only to see New York in a whole new way, but to look, and taste, beneath the surface.
Q: You are stranded on a desert island with only one book, one CD, and one DVD--what are they?
A: Ulysses by James Joyce. What better place to finally get through it?
Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert. If youre going to listen to one piece over and over, this is one that doesnt get tiresome.
How to Build a Boat in Five Easy Steps. Since Im going to be watching one movie over and over, it might as well be useful.
Q: What is the worst lie you've ever told?
A: Im such a good liar, I wouldnt know where to begin.
Q: Describe the perfect writing environment.
A: I can write pretty much anywhere. But I prefer small, cozy spaces, with a good view over a lake or a forest, and room for the cats to curl up.
Q: If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say?
A: "Shell be right back."
Q: Who is the one person living or dead that you would like to have dinner with?
A: Elizabeth I. She fascinates me. She had a great mind, enormous appetites--and she was a survivor. The most interesting woman of an interesting time, and I have a million questions Id like to ask her.
Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: You mean after creating world peace? This is a hard one. But Ive always wanted to be able to fly.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. As the New York Times's restaurant critic for most of the 1990s, Reichl had what some might consider the best job in town; among her missions were evaluating New York City's steakhouses, deciding whether Le Cirque deserved four stars and tracking down the best place for authentic Chinese cuisine in Queens. Thankfully, the rest of us can live that life vicariously through this vivacious, fascinating memoir. The book—Reichl's third—lifts the lid on the city's storied restaurant culture from the democratic perspective of the everyday diner. Reichl creates wildly innovative getups, becoming Brenda, a red-haired aging hippie, to test the food at Daniel; Chloe, a blonde divorcée, to evaluate Lespinasse; and even her deceased mother, Miriam, to dine at 21. Such elaborate disguises—which include wigs, makeup, thrift store finds and even credit cards in other names—help Reichl maintain anonymity in her work, but they also do more than that. "Every restaurant is a theater," she explains. Each one "offer[s] the opportunity to become someone else, at least for a little while. Restaurants free us from mundane reality." Reichl's ability to experience meals in such a dramatic way brings an infectious passion to her memoir. Reading this work—which also includes the finished reviews that appeared in the newspaper, as well as a few recipes—ensures that the next time readers sit down in a restaurant, they'll notice things they've never noticed before.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
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Believing that controversy is good for a critic, she sometimes lets herself be brazenly frank. However, it is the sensuous detail about the foods she consumes that got my attention. Her descriptions of the tasting menu at one restaurant really reveals the beauty of her talent. It is almost as if her sophisticated analysis of cuisine is more of an art form. Ruth Reichl notices all the small details of each meal and recounts them with clarity from her photographic mind.
I enjoyed so much about this book, but it was the train ride to Flushing that intrigued me most with all its sights and scents. You feel as if you've been drawn into a memorable and magical experience. The tour of Brooklyn with Ed Levine was also fun.
Once you begin this book you are along for the ride. You will be entertained with the fantasy of being a food critic. While reading, you can live blissfully and vicariously. At times the situations or conversations are also delightfully funny. I especially enjoyed Ruth Reichl's son's comments as he seemed wise beyond his years.
Ruth Reichl is an expert at reading people and describes them with such detail you will feel that you know these individuals intimately. What amused me the most however was all the characters Ruth becomes in order to disguise herself. As the most powerful restaurant critic in the world, she often tries to fly under the radar to experience restaurants as an ordinary person. This involves wearing various outfits and wigs.
Throughout the book you will find the reviews that were published in the New York Times. There are also some delicious recipes. I tried the Spaghetti Carbonara and it was so good my husband asked for more. It is definitely a recipe I'm happy to add to my repertoire. I did however wish that she'd included a recipe for mushroom dumplings since they sounded so good.
Once you have read a book by Ruth Reichl you will want to read more because her experiences with food are so exciting and memorable. I did however wonder why she only gave Union Pacific three stars when it sounded like a four-star experience.
After reading this book and trying a recipe I am looking forward to trying more recipes in Ruth's cookbook.
One word of warning however, drinking too much alcohol can lead to fatal diseases, especially of the liver. This is a book that describes wine in great detail.
~The Rebecca Review