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My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life: A Cookbook

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In the fall of 2009, the food world was rocked when Gourmet magazine was abruptly shuttered by its parent company. No one was more stunned by this unexpected turn of events than its beloved editor in chief, Ruth Reichl, who suddenly faced an uncertain professional future. As she struggled to process what had seemed unthinkable, Reichl turned to the one place that had always provided sanctuary. “I did what I always do when I’m confused, lonely, or frightened,” she writes. “I disappeared into the kitchen.”

My Kitchen Year follows the change of seasons—and Reichl’s emotions—as she slowly heals through the simple pleasures of cooking. While working 24/7, Reichl would “throw quick meals together” for her family and friends. Now she has the time to rediscover what cooking meant to her. Imagine kale, leaves dark and inviting, sautéed with chiles and garlic; summer peaches baked into a simple cobbler; fresh oysters chilling in a box of snow; plump chickens and earthy mushrooms, fricasseed with cream. Over the course of this challenging year, each dish Reichl prepares becomes a kind of stepping stone to finding joy again in ordinary things.

The 136 recipes collected here represent a life’s passion for food: a blistering ma po tofu that shakes Reichl out of the blues; a decadent grilled cheese sandwich that accompanies a rare sighting in the woods around her home; a rhubarb sundae that signals the arrival of spring. Here, too, is Reichl’s enlivening dialogue with her Twitter followers, who become her culinary supporters and lively confidants.

Part cookbook, part memoir, part paean to the household gods, My Kitchen Year may be Ruth Reichl’s most stirring book yet—one that reveals a refreshingly vulnerable side of the world's most famous food editor as she shares treasured recipes to be returned to again and again and again.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published September 29, 2015

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About the author

Ruth Reichl

64 books1,991 followers
Ruth Reichl is an American food writer, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and culinary editor for the Modern Library.
Born to parents Ernst and Miriam (née Brudno), she was raised in New York City and spent time at a boarding school in Montreal. She attended the University of Michigan, where she met her first husband, the artist Douglas Hollis. She graduated in 1970 with a M.A. in art history.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 741 reviews
Profile Image for Grad.
96 reviews1 follower
November 12, 2015
The subtitle to My Kitchen Year, Ruth Reichl’s memoir-cookbook hybrid is “136 Recipes That Saved My Life.” Saved her life? Wow. What had happened to have so dramatically affected her life that it needed “saving?” you might ask. I know I did, and I purchased it using one of those precious book gift cards that comes along every now and then when good fortune smiles. I’m apt to hoard those cards, saving them for something that has staying power: a cookbook, an art book, historical non-fiction…a Led Zeppelin CD. I never make a hasty decision when using a gift card. Even when I’ve zeroed in on a prospective choice I still mull it over a while. One would think I’d give greater thought to an item for which I’ve actually spent hard-earned money. But, no that is not the case. For whatever strange reason, no.

And so I honed in on My Kitchen Year and waited impatiently for it to be delivered, ripping open the packaging as soon as it landed on my doorstep, and I began reading it that evening. I wanted to love it; I tried to love it. Sadly, I don’t love it. I just can’t bring myself to love it and here are some of the reasons why.

Let’s begin with the physicality of the book itself as an object. It’s a chunky-ish book, about 9-1/2” x 7 x 1-1/2, the size one might find in the hardback version of a new crime novel. There is no dust cover, but it does have a nice hardboard cover with a picture of a smiling Ruth Reichl and a good-looking gray canvas spine. It feels heavy for its size – partly because the pages are printed on a hefty, matte paper – rather than the glossier paper that one often finds in cookbooks. One finds that sort of paper in many cookbooks for a very good reason: photographs of food should look temptingly glorious. So much so that the reader runs into the kitchen, throws open the pantry, and begins to pull out ingredients, never feeling the urgency to create that particular dish until a photograph sparks an epiphany of the palate. It pains me to say the photographs in this book are a bit lack luster – not awful. But, oh such a missed opportunity to make them shine.

The book itself is difficult to cook from because it does not lie flat, so if you are inclined to make the Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi you’ll either have to wrestle it into submission a with a big brick hauled in from the garden, write the recipe out by hand, or hire a butler who will submissively hold it open for you. A shame, really, because although a bit simplistic, the ones I’ve tried are really quite good (the Shirred Eggs in Potato Puree is good enough to dream about).

I could readily ignore these annoying technical difficulties since they do not form the true basis of my irritation with having expended a precious gift card on this book. It is more visceral than. It’is Ruth Reichl herself who is irritating. Let me explain.

For ten years Reichl was the Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine, a wonderful publication for which I had a subscription many years running. That is, until publisher Conde Nast (which also publishes big name magazines such as Bon Appetit, Brides, Glamour, The New Yorker, Vogue) decided to close down the magazine – literally overnight and after 69 years of publication. Reichl recounts going back to her “huge office overlooking Times Square,” feeling miserable. Apart from losing her job, she was also leaving what had become a “family” comprised of her co-workers. Up to this point, I was sympathetic – empathetic even. But then, Ruth Reichl drags the reader through 4 seasons of self-indulgent whining – with recipes.

Suddenly finding herself unemployed, Reichl worried that she and her (obviously very loving, financially successful and unerringly supportive) husband would not be able to keep both their Manhattan apartment AND the “little country house” in upstate New York unless she was able to find another job. Photographs of “the little country house” and the grounds upon which it sits would seem like heaven to most of us. I would gladly have given up the New York pad, content to look out my country window at the magnificent million-dollar view. But that is me. Ruth, however, “entered the land of grief” (Yes, gentle readers..."land of grief") as her colleagues were beginning to find jobs and recover. She, on the other hand, “looked into the future seeing endless empty days, incapable of imaging how my life would ever change.” She actually insinuated she feared she would “end up alone and homeless.” This from a woman known widely in the publishing industry, with a vast array of influential friends, a loving family, and who was already a best-selling author. She is interviewed by Anderson Cooper; she attends Yo-Yo Ma concerts, she travels. Still, life is bleak until one makes Cranberry-Pecan Crostata which perhaps will make it worth living - for a short period of time. I had gotten to page 61 at this point and was tempted to throw the book against the wall…instead I read on.

It is mid-February and Gourmet has been defunct for several months; she is feeling especially depressed. Out there, in the “real world, people were doing big things, thinking big thoughts, living big lives.” She felt “marginalized” and couldn’t help “thinking about the life I might be living.” At this point, I am overcome with the sudden urge to grab this tedious woman by the shoulders, look into her eyes, and ask her, "Do you really want to think about the life you might be living? Let me enlighten you, Ruthie. You might be living a life in a wheelchair or one filled with the despair of poverty and ignorance. You might be living a life where the grief you feel is not from losing your "huge office overlooking Times Square", but rather consists of the grief that comes with burying a child. You might be living a life where there is no loving supportive husband to be your companion and friend. Nor any dream of being lucky enough to own a "little house in the country" or anyplace else for that matter. Or, you might be living a life filled with an unsinkable positive attitude and appreciation for how truly fortunate - even blessed - you have been." Maybe I would have borrowed that great Cher line from Moonstruck and yelled, "Snap out of it!" Through all this angst, she is cooking up a storm – for you see, she has a memoir-cookbook in the making – the very one for which I would expend a precious book token - and which I do not love. And when added with all the other readers who aren't doing big things or thinking big thoughts, we will make it a little easier for you to keep that little place in upstate New York and that great Manhattan pad. And allow you to continue to think and do "big."

I had finally had enough.

Ms. Reichl is a fine writer, there is no taking that away from her. There are some very workable recipes in the book; delicious even. And, to be fair, after a full year of soul-searching, ingredient shopping, party giving, romantic evenings with her husband, and long walks in the woods, she comes to the revelation that her life is pretty damn good after all. Something that many of us already knew. One wonders why it took her so long.
(The two stars are for the recipes)
Profile Image for Dianne.
559 reviews908 followers
January 2, 2017
I don't usually rate cookbooks on Goodreads, but this is a more than a standard cookbook. It's an interesting pairing of personal diary with recipes that mark milestones in the diary.

I am a foodie and a cookbook fanatic. I read and collect cookbooks like novels - one of my happiest pastimes is curling up with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and purusing stacks of cookbooks or old Bon Appetit/Gourmet magazines (I have a collection that goes back to the 80's). I especially love cookbooks that have lots of glossy photographs and, even better, personal stories that give meaning to the recipes. That is exactly where this book falls.

Ruth Reichl was for many years editor of Gourmet magazine, a high-end periodical devoted to food and wine that was shuttered by Conde Nast in 2009 due to declining revenues. Reichl was devastated by the loss and found herself at loose ends. To help herself heal, she began work on this cookbook that chronicled the year following the loss of Gourmet. Writing and cooking were a healing balm for her.

I enjoyed this journey very much. The book is beautifully written (Reichl is a terrific writer) with gorgeous pictures and the recipes are a nice mix of "interesting, but I will never, EVER make this" to "I am so TOTALLY making this!" If you are a cookbook afficianado, I think you will really enjoy this. Take a look at a library or bookstore and see if this is collection-worthy for you. It was for me!
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,656 followers
January 4, 2018
I just adored this foodie memoir and have been raving about it to friends for days.

Ruth Reichl was the editor in chief of Gourmet when Condé Nast abruptly shut it down in fall 2009. Stunned and saddened by the loss of the beloved magazine and not sure what to do about her career, Reichl returned to an old comfort: cooking.

"I was sixty-one years old, and I wasn't sure I'd ever get another job. I had no idea what to do with the rest of my life and no notion how we'd pay the bills. And so I did what I always do when I'm confused, lonely, or frightened: I disappeared into the kitchen."

My Kitchen Year is part cookbook, part foodie blog and part grief memoir. It's also beautifully photographed, making for a lovely reading experience. I read a library copy, but I enjoyed this book so much and there were so many recipes I wanted to try that I ended up ordering my own.

Highly recommended for readers who are seeking comfort and inspiration from cooking.

Favorite Quotes
"The physical act of cooking gives me enormous pleasure, but I also like watching what it does for others. Even the angriest person is soothed by the scent of soup simmering on the stove. The aroma of flour, sugar, and butter mingling in the oven is a better tonic than any alcohol. And the best recipe for a good evening is a dish so fragrant that it makes the tongue-tied start to talk. the formula is simple: when you cook for people, they feel cared for."

"My Kitchen Year started in a time of trouble, but it taught me a great deal. When I went back to cooking I rediscovered simple pleasures, and as I began to appreciate the world around me, I learned that the secret to life is finding joy in ordinary things."

"Captured by the cooking, I had a fleeting thought that I'd spent too many years trading time for money. Was I better off now?"

"I finally understood why cooking means so much to me. In a world filled with no, it is my yes."
Profile Image for Lorna.
684 reviews365 followers
March 29, 2021
At the time Ruth Reichl wrote My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, she had been the editor of Gourmet Magazine for ten years and was on a book tour promoting the recently published The Gourmet Cookbook, when she was abruptly summoned back to New York City to learn that the parent company Conde Nast had stopped all further publications of The Gourmet magazine. Stunned Ruth Reichl began to come to terms with her life over a period of a year. I must say that this has been one of my favorite books of hers as she writes about the subsequent year from their home in rural upstate New York. As we journey with her through this transition and in tune with the seasons of the year complete with wonderful photographs and recipes as Reichl finds solace and peace in cooking and the beauty of her surroundings and family and friends. This is a book about transitions and grace.

And as always, I came away with a lot of lovely recipes including Butternut Squash Soup, Potatoes Au Gratin, Sautéed Spinach, The Diva of Grilled Cheese, Tuscan Bean Soup, New Potatoes With Green Garlic, and Painless Pasta for Three.
Profile Image for Chris.
557 reviews
February 15, 2016
There are precious few food writers today that I would follow to the ends of the earth; Amanda Hesser is one, and Ruth Reichl is the other. I don’t re-read, but looking at her list of books through the past 20 years or so I realized I have re-read at least two of them. She’s just that good. Anything she writes will make you want to get in the kitchen and cook and this book is no exception.

In 2009, Reichl, and the rest of the country, was shocked when “Gourmet” magazine, the oldest cooking publication in the country, closed its doors immediately. After almost 70 years, Conde Nast folded the monthly with nary a reason. At the helm was Reichl, who along with being blindsided, also blamed herself. With no job and no prospects, she tweeted on Twitter and retreated to the kitchen and cooked.

I always want a look into peoples’ inner lives (they’re just like us!) and reading Reichl’s pain after being fired made me feel like she was indeed one of us; guilt, anger, depression, questioning whether she was ever going to work again. I thought, “of course you are, you’re Ruth Reichl!” but in all seriousness, she was 61. We know how America treats older women in this country and thought she quite possibly could have gone into oblivion. A job interview and subsequent offer at a well-known magazine (I think I know which one is it, but I wanted her to name names!) led her to examine and realize it wasn’t what she wanted although I think some part of her regretted saying no.

This book encompasses her tweets and recipes she created during that year. Recipes are vague with what I found to be a heavy focus on Asian dishes. This isn’t a book for someone who doesn’t know his or her way around a kitchen; instead it is a map to make a dish, with you, the home cook, to find your way to your dinner. I found that fall and winter much more generous than in the spring and summer; by that time, perhaps she was feeling better and wasn’t as cooking as much, but I still wanted her stories. Or maybe it was me; dare I say I grew a little weary of her beautiful tweets that were becoming too twee for me?

One quibble, I took my copy out from the library, but the binding was so tight I could hardly open it, let alone use it as a cookbook. But maybe it shouldn’t be used that way; maybe one should just read and be inspired. I know I was. I bought a small butternut squash and quietly made soup one late morning, as the first spitting of snow swirled outside the window.

Profile Image for Sarah.
656 reviews
October 19, 2015
Oh, Ruth, at least you didn't talk about your mother. But you did wallow in self pity. And you did write a recipe for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches--that includes the word "sexy" nonetheless. Oh, and the tweets. Sigh.
Profile Image for Judith E.
547 reviews191 followers
August 23, 2019
This is a perfectly entertaining escape when life doesn’t allow you to deep dive read.

Ruth Reichl shares recipes that have given her peace and comfort during a particularly stressful time. She ‘savors’ every moment and movement during food preparation. She is not overly precise and encourages experimentation in her recipes with instructions to ‘slick a pan with oil’, ‘film it with peanut oil until it shimmers’ or ‘ pour a glug of olive oil’.

Anyone that loves wax paper and a perfect peach deserves at least a 3 star.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
October 27, 2015
When Gourmet Magazine closed without warning, Ruth Reichl was dumped into a world without a direction. The first year after Gourmet was a tough one, but cooking helped her keep her sanity and process the emotions. This is really a cookbook with a framed narrative, including Tweets she made during the time (@ruthreichl). Because of her respect for ingredients and since practically everything in the book is comfort food, many of the recipes sound appealing.

I listened to the audio, which felt a bit crazy - I would need to transcribe or memorize the recipes if I wanted to make anything (and I do! Starting with her apricot pie!) but hearing the story in her voice really was a special treat. She is comforting and genuine, like the food she creates. I wish her all the best in whatever comes next.

I listened to this from Random House using their new Volumes app. Hate the app, liked the book. :)
Profile Image for Debra.
478 reviews16 followers
June 5, 2017
Once I find an author I love, I read absolutely everything she/he has written. Such was the case when I discovered Barbara Kingsolver in the early 90s. (Animal Dreams still remains one of my favorites). After I heard David Sedaris on "This American Life," I had to read everything he ever wrote (and I've seen him in person twice). Then there's Bourdain (who I also shelled out big bucks to meet). I would so run away with him if the chance ever presented itself.

I fully admit that I have a stalker like relationship when it comes to my favorite authors.

Then, there's Ruth Reichl. I started my obsessive reading quest with Ruth about eight years ago when she appeared on "Top Chef Masters." (I also read works by her co-judges, Gael Green and and Jay Raynor, but Ruth won my heart). I just felt like Ruth and I could be friends, sharing cups of coffee with homemade pastries every morning as we discussed world events. (Again, that stalker personality could easily manifest in me.)

She was also the esteemed editor-in-chief of Gourmet, but she he may have the infamous distinction of being known as the last editor of this classical, culinary, sixty-nine year old publication.

Her latest work, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life (September 2015), deals with that unexpected demise of Gourmet and how she found herself unemployed and drifting.

That she felt a little unmoored is an understatement. Her kitchen saved her: "And so I did what I always do when I'm confused, lonely, or frightened: I disappeared into the kitchen."

I am a cookbook reader but as I perused through My Kitchen Year, I realized I was reading more than just a mere cookbook. I was experiencing all the blood, sweat and tears (and confusion, and loneliness and fright) that Reichl had balanced and overcome. My Kitchen Year is beyond a cookbook. It's a memoir about her driven and fast paced career life slashed short and her regaining of confidence through her cooking.

In between her plain spoken narrative are poetic tweets from this same time of her life. The poetry doesn't stop there and in the recipes proper are glimpses of Reichl's more lyrical language: "Peel a few different kinds of apples, enjoying the way they shrug reluctantly out of their skins" (from "Apple Crisp").

The recipes that spoke to me the most were those in the fall and winter sections. The comfort that Reichl needed for herself is echoed in the food of this time---soups, stews, hearty desserts, roasted shanks of meat, bowls of noodles, gratins, pasta...

But, since it is the growing season, I was also drawn to her spring and summer menus and musings. I did notice, though, as spring arrives and she finds a new life direction (writing said cookbook), her prose becomes more succinct and sometimes are mere recipe hednotes for her new cookbook dream. I have earmarked her Lemon Pudding Cake (165), Cochinita Pibil (200), Three Day Short Ribs (214) and her Painless Pasta for Three (276).

As you read, you will feel like Reichl is speaking directly to you and she writes that she wanted the book and the recipes to be written in a "relaxed tone, as if we were standing in the kitchen, cooking together." (Remember my fantasy of having coffee with her?)

If you're an old Goumet fan, you will love this book.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,495 reviews9 followers
March 25, 2018
Slightly depressing (will she ever work again after finding herself unemployed at age 61?). Something of a bragfest (of course she will, she's world famous editor in chief of Gourmet mag, and author Ruth Reichl), but I won't hold that against her since she wrote it as a diary not for publication. Very quick read as there are recipes and gorgeous pictures with very little text. I probably won't make any of the suggested recipes as my tastes are simpler (no oysters, duck, matzoh, or puntarelle in my future), but I do enjoy reading about her shopping excursions for everything ftom fresh fruits and exotic cheeses to short ribs and sausages. I enjoyed her novel Delicious much more, though.
Profile Image for Renata.
132 reviews131 followers
May 5, 2016
If you sometimes like to cook (but not always), if you like a variety of delicious foods, and if you are often tantalized by the beauty and fragrances of food as much as the flavors, then make friends w Ruth Reichl and her new book. With any luck the friendship will last for years!
Ruth Reichl has been writing about food almost as long as I've been enjoying food. The passion for food runs deep to the bone both in preparing it and sharing it w friends and family and in ever exploring and learning more about the cuisines of the world. Reichl has been a restaurant critic and the chief editor of Gourmet Magazine. However, whenConde Nast abruptly chose to stop publishing Gourmet, Reichl's life went into a tail spin.
So she did what she has always done so well - she immersed herself in cooking and writing about cooking. In this book she shares 136 recipes "that changed my life" as well as reflections on seasons , the cities where she first enjoyed a given recipe. I'll admit I completely understand that! I can picture the small cafe on Lake Lucerne where I enjoyed the most perfect peach Melba of my life, my mouth waters w the memories of the crab Louis salad I ate overlooking the Pacific in Laguna Beach. And that was before I turned twenty. The list goes on...melding places, people, food, and hours of pleasure - but oh to recreate those special dishes!
The book is as beautifully presented as the writing is eloquent and yet congenially personal. Before each recipe Ruth shares a Twitter piece printed in her writing in a warm sepia color. Food photos do not overwhelm the book - this is no table top decoration, but an intimate sharing of seasons in our life, our response to the seasons of the year, to weather and traditions and our own biological clock.
"To me recipes are conversations...they are a beginning, not an end. I hope you'll add a bit more of this, a little less of that, ...what I really want is my recipes to become your own. ...And so I've tried to write these recipes on a relaxed tone, as if we standing in the kitchen cooking together." And so she has. I'm not really finished with the book- I'm going to be exploring her recipes with the seasons and my changing moods.
Right now I have a bumper crop of citrus fruit so I'm exploring cooking with lemons (and since Ruth doesn't mind if I switch things out I'll sometimes use those fragrant limes) she I try the Lemon Panna Cotta, Tart Lemon Tart,and the Avgolemono soup. My mother-in-law always made the soup for us when we were sick. Comfort food at the first sign of a sniffle. Reichl's tweet"White world. Snow still falling. Even the Hawks have flown away. Lemon Soup, bright, soothing. Somewhere the sun is shining." Her tweets often have the effect of a Haiku.
When her world was momentarily turned upside down,she wrote " I did what I always do when I'm confused, lonely, or frightened: I disappeared into the kitchen." Because she believes "to the core of my being, that when you pay attention, cooking becomes a kind of meditation." I couldn't agree more. But when I'm not in the frame of mind to cook, I think I'll whip up a quick grilled cheese sandwich and curl up with Ruth and have s conversation with her on My Cooking Year.
Profile Image for Author Annabelle Leigha.
99 reviews15 followers
April 3, 2020
I was drooling through the entire thing! I'm so glad there was a PDF of all of the recipes. I'm going to be busy. I also loved the stories. I learned of Ruth through Top Chef on Bravo, I believe. I had no idea of her history in the culinary world. I'm glad I listened!
Profile Image for Cathie.
188 reviews22 followers
November 8, 2015
This is an open book of how “twitter and cooking saved her life” the year following the closing of Gourmet magazine.

In her writing, you can sense the loss felt on the shuttering of Gourmet, more so as it happened on her watch. There is also the loss of belonging – losing your Times Square office; deciding where to live; questioning what could you have done differently.

“I’d been dreaming that I was being chased across a field by an angry army of produce.”

As she shares snippets of her diary entries, her dreams, and tweets she posted from 2009 to 2010, she writes in that intimacy you can’t help but feel. As a spectator we follow her journey throughout the seasons beginning with Fall, feeling at home in her kitchen or tagging along as pays a visit to The Farmers Market or Butcher Shop. The fact that she opens up to those feelings to complete strangers is amazing.

It’s these quiet pleasures that got her through a tough year. That perhaps coming home to make a quiet dinner is not bad after a day in a fast-paced world.

So I found it interesting when in a review from Eater noted “where she once focused on encouraging her readers to try a new restaurant, her primary goal in life is encouraging those to cook at home.” My take was could it be she has since lost her expense account? In the book, her former colleague posed the question “when was the last time she was without an expense account” and her reply was “1978”.

There were other takes to how this book was interpreted based upon review comments.

I didn’t feel sorry for her and that was not my expectation. I didn’t see this as a “poor me” type of memoir to begin with. Although this didn’t happen here, I couldn’t help but think of others in times like these dealing with the possibility of having to pull your child out of college or losing your house (or second home) due to the inability to afford. However, she has afforded the luxuries in many ways, mainly being her 40-year career in the food industry.

For me, I enjoyed her memoir Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, and with the announcement of this book, I was interested to read of her journey. When I received the book in the mail, I couldn’t help but begin reading! I may be judging this book by its cover, but this is filled with clever pieces – tweets she posted, wonderful photographs taken – and the RECIPES!!!!!

The recipes are simple and direct! When the first few recipes were Shirred eggs and Chicken liver pate, I wasn’t sure if there would be a recipe I would enjoy. But then I saw the recipe for Easy “Bolognese” and it made me smile. I have to say this is the first book that has really made me consider making a recipe-or two or three.

The one utensil I I’ve noticed she utilizes for some recipes I’m interested in making is a whisk. I will have to finally invest in one of my own!

Part memoir, part cookbook, it’s a great read and feels like a “comfort” novel. I would have to say not writing a full-blown memoir and not writing a full-blown cookbook, but a culmination of the two is what makes this a success and a great addition to my bookshelf.

On my way to purchase a whisk – and tea!
913 reviews403 followers
January 12, 2016
Although my feelings about Ruth Reichl's books have been somewhat mixed since her first memoir, Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, I will say that this book actually had a lot to recommend it. It's kind of halfway between a cookbook and a memoir, with some touching sections about Ruth's emotional struggles after the abrupt termination of "Gourmet" Magazine and her editorship and how cooking, and eventually turning her cooking experiences into this cookbook, comforted her. Ruth writes poignantly as well as sensuously about the experience of cooking, to the point where some poetic lines would come back to me as I shopped and cooked for my far more mundane meals and actually made me appreciate how mindful this process can be. Additionally, the photographs were absolutely gorgeous and enhanced the overall effect of the book.

Why only three stars, then? Once again, I'm being entirely subjective. As a kosher cook of family-friendly meals who really can't devote my days to finding and using exotic ingredients, most of the recipes (appealing though they sounded) were truly impractical for my lifestyle. Also, this may simply be my anal nature but I get annoyed with cookbooks that are organized thematically rather than practically -- I just want to know where to look when I want to choose a soup, a side dish, etc. So this book was a bit schizophrenic in that it wasn't really a memoir -- the memoir pieces were relatively brief and broken up regularly by recipes -- and it also wouldn't work for me as a cookbook, given the incompatibility of the recipes with my realities.

Still, though, the process of leafing through this was actually quite enjoyable for me and, while I wouldn't purchase it for myself, I could see it making a nice gift for someone who's a devoted gourmet cook or foodie as well as a reader.
Profile Image for Laurie Garrison .
711 reviews171 followers
March 20, 2016
Sometimes you have to overlook the bad in order to find the good in something.

I would have given this book a higher rating, but the book itself is the size of a large hardcover novel so, you physically have to manhandle the book to keep it open while you’re trying to follow the recipes. The photos are very lacking too, they most defiantly won’t make you want to jump up and start cooking. Then there is the story of self-pity in which I didn’t much care for so, I quit reading it after a few chapters and went to try some of the recipes.

Now, let's get to the recipes, which is where the book takes a total turn for me. I own a wide range of cookbooks and magazines, everything from Martha Stewart to simple All Recipes magazines and being I’m a chocolate cake-acholic I have to try every chocolate cake recipes I get my hands on. I’ve never experienced such a freaking awesome taste such as Ruth Reichl’s, “The Cake that Cures Everything.” I have never tasted such a moist melt in your mouth cake before. I’m just glad I froze one of the 13x8 layers for later or I would have definitely gained 10 extra pounds by eating it all. LOL. I also tried the waffle recipe which was also wonderful and the Roasted Chicken and Potatoes recipe is next to try on my list.

If you’re looking for delicious recipes, then by all means please grab and don’t worry about the photos and story. My advice is to grab the kindle addition so you want to have to manhandle the book constantly.
Profile Image for Robin K.
389 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2016
I would have put this down if not for the challenge from BookRiot to read a food memoir. I would have given this one star, but I will give it two because there were 10-12 recipes that sounded interesting. Still, I am not motivated to copy them on principle. The faux poetry/tweets that start every section: irritating. The writing style: too smarmy. Even the recipes were written in a folksy style, which put me off. The substance: barely there. Two paragraphs on average per recipe. The story of her year after the magazine Gourmet, for which she was editor, closed: uninteresting. So she lost a job. It's not like her life truly needed saving, as the subtitle suggests. Most of us feel bad about it and move on, except most of us don't have both an apartment in NYC and a house in upstate New York to feel bad in. Half way through the book you find out that she's going on tour to for a memoir she's already written, and everyone is telling her to turn her journal into this cookbook. By the end, she's starting to write fiction. Transformation from editor to writer neatly done. Somehow cooking had something to do with it. I do not recommend.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
597 reviews45 followers
January 10, 2016
I really enjoyed reading this book. Ruth Reichl is an amazing writer. This book was beautifully written and I could feel her passion for food and her many emotions in her writing. I expected her recipes to be too expensive to try. But to my surprise, they weren't all expensive dishes. I felt like the author did a great job of including expensive and inexpensive recipes, easy and hard recipes, and recipes from around the world. This was a very impressive book.

So if I loved it so much, why did I only give it four stars? The actual book itself is a problem. This book is awkward. It was not easy to hold. It's bulky and the shape seems off. Towards the end it became a lot harder to hold. It just didn't make sense to have the book be the dimensions it is. And my last complaint is about the author. She complains about being concerned about what she would do after losing her job and possibly having to sell one of her homes. If money was an issue, why would she buy expensive items at the market (before she had the idea to write a cookbook)? If she was so concerned with money, why not buy cheaper items? Just pass on that really expensive meat. It can't be that hard to do.

I received a copy of this book in a First Reads Giveaway.
Profile Image for Joanne.
1,094 reviews24 followers
February 27, 2016
Oh, I loved this book. It was like having a warm shawl wrapped around my shoulders. It was the format that did it for me.

Divided into seasons, the timeline of the book started immediately after Gourmet Magazine was abruptly cancelled. Reeling with shock, Ruth Reichl retreated to her country home to lick her wounds. A brutal winter ensued, and she found the most comfort in the kitchen. Thus followed a year of recipes, following the old adage of fresh and seasonal. None of the recipes are impossibly complicated, although not all of them appealed to me, but I loved the layout. Her tweets read like haikus, and her simple explanations of her mood, motivation and inspiration for each recipe endeared me so much. Where else would you find a recipe for a PBJ sandwich that sends you to the kitchen immediately?

This is not a book for anyone looking for serious cooking recipes. It is more a warm, cozy food diary that I could read over and over again just for comfort. Oh, and by the way, some of those recipes are really wonderful.
Profile Image for Jameil.
471 reviews13 followers
December 18, 2015
Three stars for her writing style (which I love!) and the recipes. The cookbook/memoir style of this particular book was way too choppy. As soon as I'd settle in to the memoir portion, oh here's another (usually quite accessible and really delicious-sounding) recipe.

Then there's the fact that she's depressed. Hard to read her wallow in self-pity with such problems as having to choose whether to give up ONE of her homes. When you're talking about how much you love the Gourmet staff, you HAVE to know people with much smaller salaries and shallower experience have... I hate to say real problems but bigger issues than WHICH home to keep. Tone deaf. Which is unfortunate as there really are some good things here but I struggled to finish this book and I'm a big Reichl fan. She totally inspired me in a number of ways with Tender to the Bone. But this book just missed the mark.
Profile Image for TraceyL.
987 reviews133 followers
December 7, 2019
I just finished reading Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir and loved Ruth Reichl's writing so much that I immediately downloaded another one of her cookbooks/memoirs. I thought it would be weird listening to a cookbook, but the recipes are mostly about techniques, and open to creativity. It made me very hungry and thinking about all the recipes I want to make. The memoir parts were great as well, and she does mention working at Gourmet, but was mostly about her life after the magazine closed down.
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
453 reviews660 followers
March 6, 2016
I love to read anything by Ruth Reichl. I have been a fan for a long time. Everything in her books just flows together nicely. Naturally, I love to read anything about food and especially love cookbooks.
Profile Image for Jim Beatty.
292 reviews2 followers
August 22, 2019
The turkey can be dry, the stuffing wet, the mashed potatoes filled with lumps; but as long as the gravy holds out, none of that matters.
Profile Image for Karen.
444 reviews66 followers
March 4, 2020
This is a great companion book to Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir, which is Ruth Reichl's memoir of her years at Gourmet magazine. After the magazine closed and Ruth had no idea what to do next, she turned to her love of food, family, writing and cooking. She tweeted out her thoughts about food and cooking to her fan base as she faced the fall and winter in her home in rural Hudson Valley, NY. Gradually, she realized that a cookbook was forming. At the end of four seasons, her book was complete.

I loved reading Ruth's description of her favorite recipes and I loved that she cooked with seasonal, food fresh from the farmer's market in her neighborhood in Hudson Valley. She also returned to her NYC neighborhood on occasion and had food adventures that can only be experienced in the big city. Most of Ruth's recipes are not crazy extravagant with exotic ingredients. Her banana bread, chili, pumpkin pancakes, Thanksgiving turkey, pasta dishes, and quiche all seem to be quite reasonable. Her son made quiche for her when she was recovering from surgery, so that should be proof that these recipes are achievable by the average cook who is focused on making tasty meals.

I was surprised by the number of times her house lost power over the winter, but she remained committed to staying where she was and making the best of things, cooking pretty amazing meals with limited resources. And I loved the photos by Mikkel Vang, who took live-action photos that were magazine quality. I loved that Ruth's cats were never far from her and that one of her cats always found whatever had fallen on the floor.

I recommend this book to anyone who loved Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir or any of her other books. I might caution that the recipes in this book may not be very vegan-friendly, though there are a lot of lovely recipes involving fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, the recipes are based on the availability of produce and meat in the northeast. So, that may be an issue for readers outside of this area. Worth the read.
Profile Image for Sarah Nealy.
223 reviews
July 15, 2019
I liked how the reader was the author, it made it very personal. I mean it was a memoir so it would of been weird if someone else read it. However it was not a solid memoir, it was more of a cookbook with snippets of her life, so I felt like it was a bit jumpy. I loved all the different recipes, and I learned a lot of different tricks and tips, so I'm exited to try them. I lost some interest at the end though, I felt like the bits about her was not interesting anymore. Overall though I liked hearing about the food!
236 reviews
March 27, 2021
As a long-time fan of Reichl's memoirs, I will read pretty much anything she writes. This book--one part cookbook, one part memoir, and one part poetry--chronicles the difficult year following the closing of Gourmet magazine where Reichl served as editor-in-chief for a decade. The photographs of both the food and the various settings make for a gorgeous edition that looks and feels almost like a diary or scrapbook. My takeaways include a few new recipes to try and the reinforcement of the old truism that unexpected endings bring unexpected beginnings.
178 reviews1 follower
September 19, 2020
Ugggggggggh. Why didn't I like this book more? I *love* Ruth Reichl's memoirs; they are so smart and funny and kind. I love everything of hers I've ever read, except for Delicious (her foray into fiction) which I found unbearable: smug and cliche and... I just kind of kept wanting to slap almost everyone in the book, including often Ruth herself. But that was her fiction, whereas this was the story of her post-Gourmet year, plus recipes! I like both of those things! But this... just kept rubbing me the wrong way. Her little Twitter haikus were irritating. I kind of want to call them "twee", which I'm pretty sure is a word I've never used for anything, ever. In all her memoirs, she comes across as completely down to earth, even when she's hobnobbing with famous people and eating $1K meals. But in this... I don't know. I just didn't feel it. As for the recipes: good grief, how many times can she possibly say "Don't even *attempt* this recipe unless you can get absolutely *perfect* !" I get it; some recipes are like that. But combined with the sense of "Sometimes when I'm in my chic NYC apartment, I pine for my glorious upstate get-away! But then when I'm in my 2nd home which is completely surrounded by gorgeous nature and artisanal food producers, I long for the bustle of NYC where I have access to literally everything!" Was I just in a grumpy mood the whole time I was reading this? I don't think I was. But it kind of left me that way. Sigh.
Profile Image for Karen.
122 reviews30 followers
July 17, 2021
Such a lovely book to read and reflect on. This is a very warm book that wraps around you and engages you in a conversation, a tribute, a paean to those who love food, the beauty of it, the preparation of it, the growing of it, the gathering of it and the joys of shopping for it. While this book has recipes, designed in a four season format, I don’t think of it at all as a cookbook. It’s a long embrace to the reader celebrating the love that comes from creating meals and sharing meals, borne out of a nightmare year when with no notice Gourmet magazine with Reichal as editor-in-chief suddenly shuttered its doors after nearly 70 iconic years. It was a magazine like no other published in America. She did not mourn alone, she was inundated by fans that turned to her in THEIR depression at the loss of a friend they had permanent subscriptions to. Her hands were full, her heart empty. The recipes included are tempting and can be unique. But her prose, her revelations of her mindset, and yes, her deep grief at having to walk away from her artistic work are beautifully laid out and you feel you’ve intimately shared a deep and meaningful experience over some wonderful seasonal offerings that you will never forget. Such a lovely readable book that will stay with you, for those who believe sharing food is sharing love.
Profile Image for Kate.
455 reviews22 followers
October 14, 2015
Very, very basic recipes…almost "arrangements of ingredients." That's not necessarily a bad thing…I love Ruth Reichl's other books, and I mostly enjoyed the recipes as experiences and not because of their technical merits (although I feel like it's worth mentioning that the narrative in books like Garlic & Sapphires is Ruth tackling more complicated cuisines in an attempt to understand cooking on a more technical level, whereas this is "comforting" food eaten during a difficult year, and usually quite uncomplicated). I wasn't a huge fan of the photos and overall "nice/gifty" look of this book and felt that it was unnecessary--the pleasure of Reichl's voice is there, and short essays like the one about cooking cabbage with noodles could have stood on their own perfectly well without on-trend uncoated paper and Instagram candids. I'm not hating, it's a pretty book, and it would be an excellent Christmas gift, particularly if you are a daughter whose mom also enjoys Ruth Reichl. But I felt myself wishing that it was more of a reading book. And the Twitter excerpts definitely straddle the gap between dumb and enjoyable, but that's Twitter for you.
Profile Image for Tuck.
2,223 reviews208 followers
December 15, 2015
after 10 years being boss of 'gourmet' magazine, author is fired, magazine is shut down (after about 80 year run?) and reichel is a bit of a loss about what to do next. she was in her early 60's, a stable family, an apartment in nyc and a country house up river in the north. she cooked her way out of sadness and depression from the shock of shock capitalism. and this book is a lite tale of her 'year' figuring stuff out, and cooking some good stuff. heavy on flour, pork, butter, but also has lots of interesting seasonal vegetables and fruits of ne usa, some nice histories of her, her magazine, and worlds of foods over the decades. has one gluten free recipe for yangshuo dumplings, and all kinds of easyfied takes on thai, korean, and other asian styles, some old traditional usa styles, beef, lamb, pork pork pork, fish, italian, usa rural, mexican variations, so a big spread of styles, and easy conversational dialog with us, the readers. nice book, but not an end-all of cooking. but one can learn a lot too.
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