Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Books That Make Us Hungry: Comfort Me with Apples
Janet here: As Rachel mentioned last week, we thought we'd occasionally offer up our thoughts on our favorite food-related books on Tuesdays, and there is no better place for me to start than with Ruth Reichl.
The last editor of Gourmet magazine before it was sadly killed last year, Reichl was, prior to that and in no special order, a restaurant critic for the New York Times, food editor and restaurant critic for the LA Times, and the author of the bestselling Tender at the Bone. I haven't read that memoir yet, although I did read her book on her mother, Not Becoming My Mother (great title and wonderful book). I found Comfort Me with Apples while cleaning out my mother-in-law's house and grabbed it immediately. I am so glad I did.
Reichl holds nothing back in this book, which takes up presumably where Tender left off with her first gig as a freelance food writer for a now-defunct California magazine. She lived in a commune in Berkeley with her long-time boyfriend, eventual husband, Doug, an artist. It's not long into her gig that she begins an affair with another serious foodie, her editor (never a good idea in general to get involved with your boss). She doesn't stay with him, but she learns a great deal from him as he exposes her to all kinds of food, especially during a memorable trip to Paris. By the time they part, she has evolved — as a woman and as a food writer/critic.
Reichl's writing about the food is so clear and descriptive you feel as if you're at the table with her. While I personally wouldn't want to eat all the foods she describes — I prefer my brains in my head for instance — I felt as if I could understand their wonder thanks to her beautiful prose.
Added bonus? The book is interspersed with recipes. I can't wait to try her crab cakes. She cooks them right after the first of many awkward phone calls with Doug as their relationship dissolved. That turning to the familiarity of cooking while under duress is a place I've been many times and is just one of the many many honest moments she shares in this book.