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Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

October 3, 2006

Garlic and SapphiresGarlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl was not your typical memoir. But like all three of Reichl’s memoirs, it revolves around food.

Garlic and Sapphires centers on Reichl’s experience as The New York Times’ food critic. It was very fascinating to find out how Reichl disguised herself, taking on various personas to discover how the restaurant would treat her . . . if they didn’t know she was critic. Restaurants usually post the pictures of well-known critics in their kitchens (our intern last year used to work in a restaurant in NYC and told me Reichl’s picture was also in that kitchen). It was so enlightening. But in the end, Reichl was unhappy with the person she was becoming–a food snob. She’d started out wanting to broaden New York City’s snobbish ideas of food by reviewing ethnic and small restaurants, not just the “big” ones. In the end, she knows she must leave restaurants and get back in the kitchen.

Hence, she’s now Gourmet’s Editor in Chief.

Reichl writes about food sensually, engaging every sense. For instance:

“The first bite was a shock; the pate had been soaked in Armagnac and spices, and they ignited the tongue. But with the second bite the intensity segued into something more muted as the strawberry-balsamic emulsion came forward to temper the taste . . . It was a dish that robbed you of conversation.”

Reading made me want to cook and eat.

Good thing the book included recipes. Recipes are interspersed throughout the book and relate to the chapters and range from Hash Browns to Roasted leg of Lamb.

Hmmm. I recommend this book if you like memoirs and food.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2006 9:35 pm

    Veddy interesting. I love to read about people in disguise–of almost any kind. Spies, “homeless” people, rich people. I don’t do it often, but this is a first I’ve heard of a food critic in disguise. Just last night I had a really odd dream that I had become a food snob. I refused to eat anything but fresh restaurant food that I personally watched being prepared. I woke up hating being like that! I dont’ want to forget where I came from–beanies adn wenaies as a pastor’s kid on green stamps, mac ‘n cheese sustained me thru college, my first apartment asa single gal had no kitchen, and I never want people afraid I’ll criticize their cooking, no matter how humble it is. That was the sense I woke up with–that I was ‘above” average, everyday food. ACGK!

  2. October 4, 2006 9:04 am

    Sounds like you’d enjoy this book, Zoanna. What a wacko dream, too! 🙂

  3. October 4, 2006 9:37 am

    You are the second blogging friend of mine to recommend this book. My friend Michelle did too:
    http://asseenthroughtheeyesof.blogspot.com/2006/03/restaurant-critic.html

    I am going to have to read this one…when our book club breaks in December or when I travel in November. 🙂

  4. October 4, 2006 11:10 am

    I enjoyed her review too, thanks for the link! She has a cool blog anyway, great pictures and I like the looks of her book list.

  5. October 4, 2006 2:51 pm

    will check this one out for sure. Thanks 🙂

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