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Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Tableby Ruth Reichl
In 1978, when Comfort Me with Apples opens, the young woman we met in Tender at the Bone is living in a Berkeley commune with her husband, soon to find herself at the center of a revolution in the American food industry. She's hardly settled into her first job as a restaurant critic, it seems, and suddenly she's hanging out with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse and sharing a table at Ma Maison with Orson Welles. Ruth Reichl's second book tracks her career from the first professional writing assignments to her reign as one of America's most influential food critics. For ten years at the L.A. Times and six more at the New York Times, Reichl helped reinvent the role of a food critic earning a reputation as a subversive, democratizing force in the formerly elitist world of fine dining. In April 1999, she joined Gourmet magazine as editor-in-chief.
"You can be a decent critic if you know about food," Reichl writes, "but to be a really good one you need to know about life." Comfort Me with Apples demonstrates that Reichl has rarely seen cause to consider one without the other, food and life, life and food, inextricably bound. Whether sharing her recipe for the Big Chocolate Cake she used to woo her second husband or chronicling her culinary tour of China in letters mailed across the world to her ailing father, her second memoir offers the eclectic menu of her middle years: a broken marriage, a new beginning, romance in Paris, heartbreak in Barcelona, and always another exquisite meal ahead.
Synopses & Reviews
In Ruth Reichl?s latest book ? one that will delight her fans and convert those as yet uninitiated to her charming tales ? the author brings to life her adventures in pursuit of good meals and good company. Picking up where Tender at the Bone leaves off, Comfort Me with Apples recounts Reichl?s transformation from chef to food writer, a process that led her through restaurants from Bangkok to Paris to Los Angeles and brought lessons in life, love, and food.
It is an apprenticeship by turns delightful and daunting, one told in the most winning and engaging of voices. Reichl?s anecdotes from a summer lunch with M.F.K. Fisher, a mad dash through the produce market with Wolfgang Puck, and a garlic feast with Alice Waters are priceless. She is unafraid ? even eager ? to poke holes in the pretensions of food critics, making each meal a hilarious and instructive occasion for novices and experts alike. The New York Times has said, ?While all good food critics are humorous .. few are so riotously, effortlessly entertaining as Ruth Reichl.? In Comfort Me with Apples, Reichl once again demonstrates her inimitable ability to combine food writing, humor, and memoir into an art form.
"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." Publishers Weekly
"Comfort Me With Apples shows us that even at life's most painful moments, eating and cooking can offer redemption. A great meal has the power to summon memory, to invoke romance, to mend a broken heart. When her personal life falls apart, Ms. Reichl invents a dish called 'Swiss pumpkin' to make herself feel better, and it somehow helps. Not only inventing foods but inventing the words describing foods helps her through difficult times." Jenny Lyn Bader, New York Times
"Two courses of Reichl's literary cooking will leave still ravenous readers hoping for a third serving soon." Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
Ruth Reichl is the editor in chief of Gourmet and the author of the bestselling Tender at the Bone, a James Beard Award finalist. She has been the restaurant critic at The New York Times and the food editor and restaurant critic as the Los Angeles Times. Reichl lives in New York City.
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