Marsha's Reviews > Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
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Apr 28, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction, cooking-food-wine, memoir, owned-books
Read in August, 2011 — I own a copy

The 80s had bottomed out and the economy went bust. Ruth’s job in California was by no means in jeopardy but her husband felt it was time for a change. But could she trade sunny California for the grim skies of New York? “The New York Times” was beckoning and it would be an opportunity to work with what was considered the greatest newspaper in the United States. Plus, she grew up in New York… So what could she do but say yes?

“Garlic and Sapphires” shows Ruth’s work as food critic for the Times. Not content with going over the same old ground as her predecessor, she branches out from the traditional French and Italian dishes to explore Korean, Chinese and Indian cuisines. Her tastebuds were exquisitely honed in America and abroad and her writing showed it.

But she didn’t write merely for the rich; she wrote for the tourists, the shy little old ladies, the romantic lovers—in short, anyone and everyone. In order to do so, she had to disguise herself for she wanted to know how restaurants treated the ordinary patron, not merely someone with the ability to give them rave reviews. Her excursions as anonymous women, ably aided by her theatrical friend Claudia, opened a window to the various facets of her own nature.

As Ruth gets caught up in these various inner characters, the reader is taken on a journey both gastronomic and personal. We are swept away by her transformations, her cogent, on-point and occasionally rhapsodic reviews.

Within these pages lies the beating heart of a dedicated foodie. She may have strayed from the path once or twice but she never truly forgot what was important: the love and joy of food well prepared and eaten among friends and family.
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