Synopses & Reviews
In Ruth Reichls 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 Reichls 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. Reichls 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.
"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
"The second volume of noted gourmet Reichl's memoirs finds her as an aspiring novelist who, to make ends meet, has just accepted a position as restaurant critic for a California magazine....Those who reveled in Reichl's portrait of her mother in Tender at the Bone (1998) will find even more delightful characters in this new volume." Booklist
"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
"This delightful memoir, written by the editor of Gourmet and former restaurant critic at the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, picks up where her first best-selling work, Tender at the Bone, left off. Readers and fans who hankered to learn the details of her coveted career now get them and then some....Elegant description captures the imagination, tempts the palate, and illustrates Reichl's well-deserved reputation as a food writer. Highly recommended."
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.
Reading Group Guide
In this delightful sequel to her bestseller Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl returns with more tales of love, life, and marvelous meals. Comfort Me with Apples picks up Reichl’s story in 1978, when she puts down her chef’s toque and embarks on a career as a restaurant critic. Her pursuit of good food and good company leads her to New York and China, France and Los Angeles, and her stories of cooking and dining with world-famous chefs range from the madcap to the sublime. Throughout it all, Reichl makes each and every course a hilarious and instructive occasion for novices and experts alike. She shares some of her favorite recipes, while also sharing the intimacies of her personal life in a style so honest and warm that readers will feel they are enjoying a conversation over a meal with a friend.
1. When Ruth Reichl tells her housemates that she is going to become a restaurant critic, her roommate Nick responds, “You’re going to spend your life telling spoiled, rich people where to eat too much obscene food?” Discuss Reichl’s transition from chef to critic and the effect it has on her lifestyle. To what degree is Nick’s response a reflection of the era (the 1970s)? Thirty years later, does your reaction differ from Nick’s?
2. Reichl is known for her restaurant reviews and other food writing. In Comfort Me with Apples, do you find her writing about food to be straightforward? Consider her use of metaphor (eggs that taste like sunshine, raspberries like spring) to describe food. Do you find this to be an effective means of conveying her sensations to the reader?
3. How is Reichl’s background in journalism reflected in her prose style in this book?
4. Reichl has said that Comfort Me with Apples is about women and work. Throughout her personal ups and downs, she always returns to work as a source of solace, continuity, and fulfillment. Consider her trip to Barcleona after she has had to return her adopted daughter to the girl’s birth parents. How does the trip console her, and how is she different upon her return?
5. Reichl includes recipes at the end of each chapter, recipes that each signify a specific event in her life and relate to an event in the book. In Comfort Me with Apples, cooking is often therapeutic. Think of your own relationship with food and cooking. Are there particular meals that, for you, elicit memories or strong emotional responses?
6. Ruth Reichl’s first memoir, Tender at the Bone, dealt to a great extent with her often difficult relationship with her mother. How does their relationship evolve and change in Comfort Me with Apples? Consider the relationships that dominate her life in this book, including those that intersect with her relationship with her mother, and how they reflect on Reichl’s life and character.
7. The author has called Comfort Me with Apples “a love story.” What is the nature of this love story? Think of the ways in which love pervades the book—love of food, friends, lovers, spouses, chidren, and
8. In an interview, Reichl has said, “I believe privacy is overrated. I did hold back when I thought what I was writing would be hurtful for someone else, but I believe that the biggest hope for mankind is for us to learn to know each other, to tell each other the truth.” Consider the responsibilities an author has in writing an autobiography. What decisions has Reichl made in shaping her own story, and what effect do they have on the reader’s perceptions of her and the other people she features in her book? Is it ever possible to preserve the objective truth (if there is such a thing) in writing a memoir?’