Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the job (and the risk) of a lifetime when she entered the glamorous, high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet, during which she spearheaded a revolution in the way we think about food.
When Condé Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America's oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone's boss. And yet . . . Reichl had been reading Gourmet since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no?
This is the story of a former Berkeley hippie entering the corporate world and worrying about losing her soul. It is the story of the moment restaurants became an important part of popular culture, a time when the rise of the farm-to-table movement changed, forever, the way we eat. Readers will meet legendary chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, idiosyncratic writers like David Foster Wallace, and a colorful group of editors and art directors who, under Reichl's leadership, transformed stately Gourmet into a cutting-edge publication. This was the golden age of print media—the last spendthrift gasp before the Internet turned the magazine world upside down.
Complete with recipes, Save Me the Plums is a personal journey of a woman coming to terms with being in charge and making a mark, following a passion and holding on to her dreams—even when she ends up in a place she never expected to be.
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.
I'm a big foodie, not a baker, but I love to cook. New recipes. Old favorites, comfort food, different ethnic cuisines, I love to experiment with recipes. I've read all of Ruth's books and have enjoyed each and everyone.
As the food critic for the New York times, her meal time was not her own. She regretted not having more time with her husband and son, so when she is approached and asked to become editor of Gourmet Magazine, she accepts. Not that she isn't worried about a job she is not certain she is qualified for, but being able to be home for dinner is a big plus, not to mention the salary and perks. This book covers her time at Gourmet, and it makes very interesting reading.
Her descriptions of food had me drooling. Melted chocolate, caramel, my two favorite ingredients. The way the food is staged, photographed. Occasional looks into her private life, and the challenges of keeping a magazine running, in the dying days of magazines. She would reinvent Gourmet, changing the stuffy image, into a trendy, but elegant magazine. She is a wonderful writer, and she captures a life based on food, and cuisine, effortlessly.
If you have followed Ruth Reichl through her memoirs, this takes place between Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise and My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, telling the story of her experience as the editor for Gourmet Magazine up until its shocking closure. I feel this memoir is for foodies first, but will also be of interest for anyone in publishing or the arts. The people working for Gourmet cultivated an environment of creative exploration and perfection that made the magazine what it is, and I loved reading about each person's contributions and how the magazine reflected the changing culture of food in the United States. There's an entire chapter, for instance, about the publication of "Consider the Lobster" by David Foster Wallace, which I had no idea was first published in Gourmet!
In a different voice, I can see how this story could be obnoxious. So many famous people, so many fancy meals and expensive restaurants, so many trends in food and fashion. But Ruth Reichl is so direct, honest, and open that the story transforms into something more heartwarming than it feels it has the right to be.
Unlike My Kitchen Year which is sometimes referred to as a cookbook (although I personally still feel it is more memoir than recipe), this memoir only has 3-4 recipes. I had my eye on that chocolate cake that helped her establish kitchen credibility with her staff, so you know I had to make it.
This book comes out April 2. I received an early copy from Random House through NetGalley.
This week I read Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl, who among many other roles, was the former editor of Gourmet magazine. In this memoir, she details her time in the position and I couldn’t get enough of it!
I love reading about the world of journalism and thought Ruth’s story was really interesting. Naturally, she talks about cooking, along with creativity, photography, advertising, her team, her family, and more. There are also a few recipes included throughout the book. Side note: My own kitchen skills are minimal (yet I can’t get enough of Top Chef) — I’m better known for showing up with a good bottle of champagne.
I wasn’t familiar with Ruth before hearing about the release of this book last year. She was a restaurant critic prior to joining Gourmet, which ceased publication in 2009. As you might expect with Ruth being an editor, Save Me the Plums is well-written, providing an inside look at the magazine while maintaining a relatable tone.
I'm a Ruth Reichl fan. Always have been. I've read a number of her books (loved them), read her blog, watched her on cooking shows....so I knew I had to read this one. I'm a big foodie and will read anything food related so had a feeling this one would fit that bill. I was so happy to buddy read this one too with Dana, who is always willing to jump into foodie books too!
Many probably know of the quick 'demise' of Gourmet magazine. Ruth Reichl was in charge at that time and in this book she details her story of how she came to be at Gourmet to it's ultimate shut down of a long standing magazine. To be honest, I didn't read Gourmet. I thought it was a bit much for me. I've come a long way in my cooking and baking but when I started my journey I was overwhelmed by the mag. I enjoyed the details of the behind the curtains look at the magazine and how it worked. There were even a few recipes included that I have added to my list to make. Come on, chocolate cake and cheddar biscuits, how could you NOT want to make them. Reichl does a lot of name dropping in this one but she seems like such a sweet, genuine person that it comes off just matter-of-fact. She is not pretentious at all. And if she excels at anything....it's writing about food.
I listened to this one which is narrated by the author and she does a wonderful job. Overall, we were glad to read this one. Certainly a must for anyone who loves to read about food, or wants to hear the inner-working details of Gourmet magazine, or you just want to listen to a good audio for a few hours. Heck, you might even be enticed to make that chocolate cake and have it for breakfast! Why not!
This is a captivating look into how Ruth Reichl transformed Gourmet magazine from a stuffy, stodgy, dying publication into a slick, relevant magazine that had it’s finger on the pulse of food trends and gave readers recipes that were accessible to home cooks everywhere.
She was hesitant at first to take the job as editor-in-chief of Gourmet but reconsidered when she thought about how profoundly the magazine impacted her life, starting at age 8 when she saw her first copy of the glossy magazine. Taking the job would also allow her to be home in the evenings with her husband and son instead of eating out every night for her job as restaurant critic for the NYT.
This book chronicles her 10 years with the magazine. It’s a memoir of the changing food scene, the trials and tribulations of a corporate job, and a behind-the-scenes look into the world of recipe testing and magazine publishing. She tells plenty of interesting anecdotes, dropping names of people familiar to most of us. Sprinkled throughout are personal stories of her family, which I loved.
Her descriptions of food is mouth-watering and she includes a few of her favorite recipes. Sadly, as most of us know, the magazine merged with Bon Appetit in 2009, ending an era, but through her writing Ruth Reichl gives us an insider look into a life few of us have intimate knowledge of, one I found fascinating.
Recommended to anyone who loves food – which is to say, everyone. I highly recommend the audio version, as Ruth narrates her own story. Then get a hard copy for the recipes.
[4+] Mmmm - a delicious and nutritious memoir! Reichl is an excellent storyteller and I found her ten years at Gourmet magazine riveting. I worked at Conde Nast in the late 1980s (before Ruth) and loved the way she brought the publishing empire's cast of characters to life.
‘Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.’ - Ruth Reichl
I did just that. I savored Save Me the Plums, reading it slowly so it would last longer. This memoir is a delectable treat on how Gourmet magazine shaped the life of Ruth Reichl, its editor in chief from 1999 to 2009.
It was a privilege to follow Ruth’s passion for food and her gift of cooking, which began in childhood, and how it led to her career development from being a restaurant critic, food editor, to helming the top editorial position of the premier epicurean magazine. Apparently, Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine first appeared in Gourmet.
I loved reading how Ruth as a child fell in love with her native city as she explored New York City’s ethnic neighborhoods and discovered its culinary delights with her German-born father. Ruth reflected, “What I was learning, on those weekend walks, is how much you can find out about a person merely by watching what he eats. Food became my own private way of looking at the world.”
Prior to Gourmet, Ruth has been a food critic and reporter for more than 20 years. She was the restaurant editor, food editor, and critic of the LA Times and restaurant critic for the NY Times. Writing restaurant reviews came at a cost. Ruth recalled, “Eating out fourteen times a week takes a toll on your body, and being away for most meals does not improve your family life.”
A meeting with Si Newhouse, the media mogul of Condé Nast Publications that owned Vogue, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker, opened doors to a new career in 1999. Ruth’s initial reluctance to work for a stuffy, high-brow magazine gave way eventually to exhilaration and an all-consuming dedication to building a strong and talented team of colleagues who took Gourmet to new heights.
There were many memorable episodes when Ruth and her team did more than just test or perfect recipes and publish a glossy magazine. They took their food right into the heart of Ground Zero for the rescue workers and firefighters during 9/11. A commissioned article by David Foster Wallace, ‘Consider the Lobster,’ stirred the conscience of the culinary world and questioned the morality of boiling a sentient being alive to please our palettes. A risky topic for a gourmet magazine but the world gained fresh respect for Gourmet. The camaraderie Ruth built with the cooks, copy editors, photographers, and publishers was enviable and stood the magazine in good stead until a new digital age dawned on the heels of an economic recession.
In this memoir are recipes for spicy Chinese noodles (p.57), jeweled chocolate cake (p.67), Thanksgiving Turkey Chili (p.140), cheddar scallion biscuits (p.173), and German apple pancake (p.253). [I made it a point to record the Kindle pages so I can try out these recipes in due time.]
Below are some quotes I have enjoyed: On being a good cook ‘I don’t think you can be a good cook unless you have a generous soul.’
On leadership ‘Nothing feels as good as building a team and empowering people, watching them grow and thrive.’
From Lou, the cheese maker in Little Italy “‘This is the fall cheese, made when the grass is ripe and the milk so rich you can taste the wildflowers in the field.’ He set the shard on a square of wax paper; it crinkled musically.”
“Refrigerate mozzarella and you kill it. When it gets cold the milk solids tighten, going from liquid to solid, and the cheese never recovers. It changes the taste and the texture. We make it fresh every day from the milk of Jersey cows, and we never allow our cheese to see the inside of an icebox.”
Discoveries on a low budget trip to Paris ‘The more stars in your itinerary, the less likely you are to find the real life of another country. I’d forgotten how money becomes a barrier insulating you from ordinary life.’
‘Luxury is best appreciated in small portions. When it becomes routine, it loses its allure.’
On apples ‘There’s something soothing about peeling apples, about the way they come whispering out of their skins. Slicing them is another pleasure, and I listened for the juicy crunch of the knife sliding through the flesh.’
Save Me the Plums is a tantalizing feast. Pull up a chair, have a glass of wine, imbibe without guilt.
For ten years Ruth Reichl helmed Gourmet magazine, turning the tired and worn publication back into the cultural achievement it once was. However, she initially balked at the idea of taking control. In 1999 she was the restaurant critic for The New York Times— a writer first and last, she certainly had no interest in managing a staff of sixty. But Gourmet was a magazine that sparked her culinary career when she discovered it at eight years old … How could she resist? The next ten years became a whirlwind of learning how to head a magazine, navigating publishing egos, and, above all else, dishing out great food.
In Save Me the Plums, the best of these stories are on display. Richl works linearly, showcasing her trepidation at taking control of a massive publication with minimal managerial experience. She’s obviously anxious, something that’s palpable on the page all these years later. It’s a testament to her writing. She’s frank, candid, and brutally honest about her successes and failures. This is particularly effective as she gains confidence and is forced into working situations with so many high profile names and even larger personalities. For some, this would come off like name dropping. For Reichl, it’s just her exploring the wonder and absurdity that was her life working for a Condé Nast publication.
In the opening section of the book, Reichl makes mention that those reading this book probably have some connection to Gourmet. This almost does a disservice to her writing. Sure, those with a familiar with the magazine will have a special reaction to her discussing the test kitchens or working on specific covers and features. However, Reichl’s work is almost like poetry— lyrical with no words wasted. Behind all the hullabaloo of office life, it’s really about the basics of food, and her careful prose make any readers hungry for more.
Reichl’s ability to weave a memoir into an examination of food and a changing industry is unparalleled. Funny, thoughtful, and enlightening— this book cannot be recommended enough.
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.
It's always a pleasure to read a new memoir from an author whose memoirs you've enjoyed in the past—it's like catching up with an old friend. I particularly enjoyed Save Me the Plums because, in addition to the usual draws of a Reichl memoir (the writing and the recipes), this one was about her time as editor of Gourmet magazine. I love any kind of publishing story, really, and in this case it was so fascinating to go behind the scenes of a glamorous magazine, as many Conde Nast publications were at the time. Ruth Reichl was the perfect tour guide, because the entire magazine scene was completely new to her when she started, so she explained all the things a reader might most want to know.
Most memoirs are about the author's personal life; what's so unique about Save Me the Plums is that it's about work. It was fascinating to read about how Reichl managed the editorial transition, how she handled each of her powerful bosses, how she hired people to carry out her vision, how she convinced the powers that be to let her take chances. I loved hearing the story behind the publication of David Foster Wallace's now-famous essay "Consider the Lobster," for instance, and about the bets she placed with her bosses about which covers would succeed or fail on the newsstand. It occurs to me that this memoir, like Garlic and Sapphires, depends a lot on your interest in the profession Reichl is focusing on. Sapphires was my least favorite of hers because I don't care that much about restaurant reviewing; if you don't care much about magazine editing, be warned: there's a lot of it in here.
Of course, it's no spoiler to say this memoir ends with Gourmet being shut down and merged with Bon Appetit, and the chapters leading up to this, as Reichl takes on more and more in an attempt to save it, are some of the most honest, and also the saddest, in the book. Save Me the Plums is really an elegy for a time that's slipping away: When there were fabulous magazines full of quality material put together by smart people who really cared about doing something good. For some reason as a culture we've decided we don't want that anymore. But I was happy to have a chance to celebrate that era, and I couldn't have asked for a better companion than Ruth Reichl. Magazine publishing's loss is book publishing's gain; regardless of what Reichl decides to do next, I'll be more than happy to read her next book about whatever it is.
I won this ARC via Shelf Awareness. Thank you to the publisher!
This is another delightful memoir from food writer Ruth Reichl. "Save Me the Plums" focuses on her years as the editor in chief of Gourmet magazine.
This is the third book I've read of Ruth's, and she is a charming storyteller. I enjoyed these stories of her magazine years, and also learned more about the business of Conde Nast. The book also includes a few recipes that relate to events in her life. Recommended to anyone who likes foodie writing or is interested in magazine publishing.
I am not huge fan of cooking, although I love to bake and read about food, so when my foodie buddy, PorshaJo, suggested Save Me the Plums for our next foodie read, I was excited to finally be jumping on the Ruth Reichl wagon. I have been wanting to read her books forever.
Save Me the Plums is a memoir of Reichl’s ten years with Gourmet magazine - from transforming the magazine to one that appealed to the average cook, with easily accessible recipes - to its final demise.
We had a great discussion as we read the book, learning about the inner sanctum of Condé Nast (lots of name dropping that most will be familiar with), the making of a magazine, inside a testing kitchen and several of her favorite recipes. Our favorites, and ones we plan to make soon, include Cheddar Scallion Biscuits and Jeweled Chocolate cake. We also enjoyed looking back at the covers of the magazine - for me, in particularly, the watercolor covers.
The audiobook, read by the author, elevated the “experience” for me. Hearing Reichl speak her own words added depth and sincerity. I look forward to reading all her books now!
I really, really love a good memoir and this one takes the plum (haha!). My biggest regret when I started this book is that I didn’t know Ruth Reichl earlier. If I had, I would have eaten up all the beautifully written and boundary-pushing Gourmet articles. If you’re already a fan of Ruth’s, then you know she’s a force and an insane talent. If you don’t know her writing, this read is a must.
In Save Me the Plums, Ruth shares her drive and passion for food writing from an early age. I loved the retelling of her childhood, scouring the shelves of bookshops reading “Gourmet”:
“I closed the magazine, and the real world came into focus. I was a little girl leafing through the pages of a magazine printed long before I was born. But I kept turning the pages, enchanted by the writing, devouring, tales of long-lost banquets in Tibet, life in Paris, and golden fruit growing on strange tropical trees. I had always been an avid reader, but this was different: this was not a made-up story; it was about real life.” I really enjoy her ability to bring us along on her adventure, watch her family dynamic, the heritage they bring to the table, and how that influenced her life.
Ruth transitions from NY Times food critic to editor of Conde Nast’s Gourmet Magazine where she transforms the magazine into cutting edge food journalism. Her story chronicles 10 years as Gourmet’s Editor where she rode the wave of the changing food scene. She helped evolve Gourmet from a tired, worn-out publication to one that becomes riveting and innovative. I personally loved her takeaways on being a visionary while balancing pragmatism.
Ruth gives a glimpse inside her private life; juggling a balance between motherhood, being a partner, and executing her job as a woman, particularly this line: “...was it because I'm a woman, trained to be a good girl and play by the rules.” She shared the struggles and joys. I love how she wove those into her narrative. She never misses a beat and there is never a moment of self-indulgence - even at decadent dinners and glamorous parties - where she could have taken one. I truly devoured every page of this, even with the folding of Gourmet magazine.
Based on her wonderful memoirs, Ruth Reichl has deservedly garnered a large, affectionate following. Her generous sharing of her moments with her family have provided much enjoyment, and here she is finally able to tell about her years at Gourmet Magazine and her experiences with its mercurial publishing house, Conde Nast. It was definitely a dream of a job. I remember seeing her when she was on a book tour in 2009 for one of her memoirs, during which she enthused about the magazine and the role she had with it, how it gave her the opportunity of a lifetime, not realizing that within a few months the magazine would fold, just before presentation of their eagerly awaited Christmas issue.
We learn of how she was lured away from her job as food critic for The New York Times to be Editor in Chief of a magazine she had loved since childhood, finding herself in spacious, luxurious digs facing out on Broadway, with all the perks someone can only dream of. But there is so much more here, in that her position and glamor never went to her head. I was particularly taken by a chapter in which she describes a Parisian trip on a budget, and how cutting back doesn't mean giving up pleasures of quality or discovery.
Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book for review.
It's Ruth Reichl's Gourmet memoir! I've been so curious about her thoughts on Gourmet, what it was like to run the magazine, and what it was like when it closed.
The book began with Ruth receiving an offer from Conde Nast. She takes quite a bit of time at the start of the book to show that working for Conde Nast was a totally different world to her ( and to most of us, I'd guess). At the time, Reichl was working as restauarant critic for the New York Times. While she loved the job and her co-workers, she was getting tired of eating out 14 times per week and rarely being able to eat with her family. If you've read her other memoirs, you'll know that she is a cook at heart, and restaurant critics don't get to cook much.
Conde Nast was a world where secret meetings were set because the magazine editors and owners feared that the press would get wind of the possible change in editors. It's a world of limousines and clothing allowances, all paid for by the magazine because style was at least as important as substance. It was a world that was about selling a lifestyle at least as much as providing information. Reichl did not feel comfortable in this world and its unthinking privilege. She also didn't think she had the background to edit a magazine. But- she did have a connection to Gourmet. She had encountered the magazine first as a little girl and it had shown her the romance and culture that could go along with good food. However, by the time that she was tapped for heading up the magazine in the 90's, Gourmet was out of touch with the average cook. It was about high-priced restaurants, lofty aspirations, and complicated recipes that most home cooks would be intimidated to try.
Reichl did turn the magazine around. I started subscribing to Gourmet in about 2005. I found the recipes to be surprisingly accessible and I can credit it for a lot of the education I got about new and interesting ingredients, cooking techniques that I could do and gave me confidence in the kitchen, and articles that made me think about where food comes from. It was educational, it was fun, and I learned to cook from that magazine as much as from anywhere else. I remember the article on halal meat and slaughtering that Reichl references in the book, years after I read it first. I didn't even know what halal meat was, and the article was disturbing because of how personal it made the act of slaughtering an animal for meat. But the reverence given to the animal and to the meat that it provided made me think about how the act of slaughter could actually be spiritual instead of impersonal and automated- we have lost something there.
Why did I rate the book only a 3? Because I was confused by much of the book. There were SO MANY names, and I couldn't keep track of who was who- a photographer, a publisher, an editor? And what's the difference between a publisher and an editor at a magazine anyway? I never figured it out. There was discussion about ad revenue, but I never felt like I really understood how the magazine worked. Reichl made fun of herself for not being able to figure out magazine jargon (what's a yaffy? It's a You Asked For It recipe from a restaurant- I remember those!) but she used a lot of shorthand herself and I felt left behind in all the terminology, names, and skimmed-over incidents.
Ruth Reichl is a very gracious writer- she gives credit to numerous people who changed the finances, advertising, photography and writing of the magazine, but she doesn't talk much about what she herself did. I wanted to know more about what she herself did.
And I was never quite sure about how to feel about the people she discussed. Some of them seemed unlikable but she apparently had affection for them. Si Newhouse, for example, the owner of Conde Nast when she worked there. The description of the interviews that she had with him and her subsequent work relationship- it felt very uncomfortable to me but she mentioned him in her dedication. And it was Si's decision to shutter Gourmet! Between November and December, without even putting out a last holiday issue (I always looked forward to that issue and the cookie recipes). It was brutal, and I found it unforgivable as a reader- what must it have been like for the employees? Reichl foreshadows this event- we all know it's coming- but I felt like I wanted it explored more. It was hurtful to me because I had really grown to love that magazine- far more than Bon Appetit (also by Conde Nast) it spoke to me. It seemed like it was all about the money at the end, no matter the dedication of the staff and the excellent product that they put out.
There was a lovely chapter about Paris where Reichl found a dress that flattered and fit her like it was made for her. But I did not agree with the decision she made at the end of the chapter!!!! If you're getting a clothing allowance, get the killer dress. You've already got two homes and aren't Bohemian anymore- getting the dress isn't going to make you a sellout.
So, I felt that I didn't really understand what it was like to be at Gourment much better after reading the book, and that's where the 3 comes from.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
4.5 stars I picked this book up on a whim and I'm surprised to say that it'll definitely be on my favorite books of 2020 list. Save Me the Plums is a memoir by Ruth Reichl, New York Times food critic turned editor in chief of Gourmet magazine at Conde Nast. This book is a love letter to food, New York City and to magazine journalism. It's the perfect combination of so many of my interests and the rise and fall of Gourmet proved to be a wild ride. The chapter about the spirit of New York City in the wake of 9/11 really hit hard considering our current climate. I found Ruth to be so inspiring and down to Earth. I loved the causal mentions and insights into some of literatures greatest writers, Anna Wintour and the chapters about Paris. I had no idea how many renowned authors wrote pieces for Gourmet, nor did I know that David Foster Wallace's 'Consider the Lobster,' was originally written for Gourmet. As a bonus, there are some recipes included between chapters that I'm definitely going to give a try! I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Ruth Reichl herself and I absolutely adored her voice, but upon finishing, I immediately ordered a physical copy. This a book I plan on cherishing and it deserves a special place in my personal collection. I can already see myself re-reading certain chapters and I've been texting all of my friends and family that this book is not to be missed!
“When you attain my age you will understand one of life’s great secrets: Luxury is best appreciated in small portions. When it becomes routine it loses its allure.” As told to Ruth in Paris
5 ☆ I’m totally fangirling!! I truly enjoyed reading Ruth Reichl’s memoir (which read like a novel) of her years as the very last editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. Reading Gourmet magazines beginning at the young age of 8 is what inspired Ruth to cook and later become a food critic & writer. After being offered the job at Gourmet, turning it down, then finally accepting her new position she learned the do’s & don’ts of fitting into the magazine publishing world and the “lingo,” not an easy task. And with the perks billionaire owner Si Newhouse offered: money, a chauffeured limo & clothing allowance.. she was so thoroughly insulated from ordinary life that for ten years she never balanced a checkbook, made a reservation, or knew where she was meant to be at any given moment. Life then was certainly not her normal. I loved the inside look into the Gourmet test kitchen and the working and reworking of the test recipes to get them perfect. What a treat! I found it fun and interesting including the recipes to try throughout the book. Ruth was an amazing trailblazer that’s for sure! In ten years time after taking risks and pushing the envelope with her team to completely restyle the magazine by making its recipes more easily accessible to home cooks, offering how-to’s, and changing the way it’s subscribers think about food, the Gourmet era was over. Si Newhouse shuttered it’s doors in 2009 surprising all 65 employees. I remember when that happened and found it sad and unfortunate as Gourmet was my one go-to food magazine. Ruth really does have it all and I’d trade her places in a heartbeat. A supportive circle of her husband, son & friends and doing what she loves as an occupation. Save Me the Plums is a beautifully written book that I highly recommend!
Ok, I tried this one to shake up the memoir reads. It started out fairly interesting within her leaving her food critic jobs for an unexpected Gourmet editor position.
She seems to be perfect. Especially within her own evaluations. Or if not, very close. And her valued food world is at the same level. Ending abruptly like the magazine and 65 employees, all at once.
This read was tedious to me. Others speak of humor? Ha, ha! Her world and juxtapositions just like the most tortured food of fusion bites. High ton and precious placements all around. Name dropping from both coasts essential.
I’ve never been disappointed in a Reichel memoir. This one flew by. Even though I knew what was coming at the end I enjoyed the ride. I love her writing and story telling and the things she pays attention to.
I don’t know in what decade I will forgive the publishers for killing Gourmet, or stop wondering idly and futilely if it isn’t finally time for it to come back again.
This book was recommended to me and I wasn't so sure reading the description but overall I actually really enjoyed it. Personally I feel like it was more of an entertainment read for me because I'm not sure much of the content will stay with me, but that is solely because I don't particularly follow much in the food industry. The writing style is very good. The writer really knows how to write in a way to draw you in and keep you reading. I blew through this book super fast.
If you are a foodie or were a reader of Gourmet magazine then I definitely think you might want to give this book a try because the writing itself really is very good.
"I studied the recipe. I had everything I needed: apples, eggs, lemon, sugar. There’s something soothing about peeling apples, about the way they come whispering out of their skins. Slicing them is another pleasure, and I listened for the juicy crunch of the knife sliding through the flesh. I cut into a lemon, treasuring the scent of the aromatic oils as they flew into the air. Soon the seductive aroma of apples melting into butter drew my family to the kitchen."
Save Me the Plums seems intended as a Reichl’s personal voyage of discovery. A voyage that reveals to us her fascination with food and a voyage that reveals to herself a satisfying life.
Much of the first part is devoted to her transition from a New York Times restaurant critic to the editor of a major magazine for gourmets and gourmands.
"I do not refuse the crystal flute the waiter hands me. I watch the bubbles drift lazily to the top, inhale that fine aroma—grapes, yeast, and age—and take a sip. Pow! The champagne zooms straight to my head. A crimson sorbet arrives cradled in a small glass dish. I dip in a spoon and a tumble of tomatoes, herbs, and horseradish, terrible in its cold tartness, assaults my mouth. The sorbet buzzes against my tongue, shocking me into the moment. One more bite, and I am experiencing the food with psychedelic intensity. A tiny onion tart, no bigger than a fingernail, is crowned with a single bright nasturtium; I stare at the blossom, thinking this the most beautiful food I have ever encountered. Airy puffs of pastry enfold bits of fish and slices of caramelized apples that crunch and crackle merrily inside my head. Adorable shrimp dumplings nestle into leaves of lettuce, the sweet pink meat peeking shyly from each jade wrapper. The flavor is delicate, tender, and so seductive I want to keep it in my mouth forever."
It is clear that I will never be able to experience what Reichl describes or experiences so that may color my review.
"She prepared me carefully for each meeting, and soon I understood that the magazine we were selling depended entirely on the needs of the client. Gourmet might be a lifestyle publication, a humble homemaker’s bible, a travel magazine, or an epicurean pioneer. We might be upscale or strictly down-to-earth. On some days we emphasized the quality of our recipes; on others we acted as if they did not exist."
"When I’d contemplated the job I’d worried about the burden of being a boss, afraid the staff would fear and resent me. But now I saw that there was another side to that coin: Nothing feels as good as building a team and empowering people, watching them grow and thrive."
"I surveyed the captains of industry seated with such easy arrogance at their capacious tables: None of them had come to eat. They were here because they could be seen but never overheard. They were here because the light in the room made everyone look better. They were here to bask in the obsequious sarcasm of the owner, Julian Niccolini, an elegantly attired Tuscan with saturnine good looks, who made sure that meals for these extremely busy people never lasted too long. They were here because no annoying check was ever presented; when lunch was over they simply strolled off. (How Mom would have loved that little detail!) They were here, ultimately, because everybody else in their world was here too."
She gets a bit snarky "We sat in edgy silence until Andrew Sarris, the Village Voice’s venerable movie critic, lurched onto the stage to offer an erudite little lecture about the movie we were about to see. He was a large, gnarled man who resembled an ancient hobbit,"
But she shares a lot of the reasons for her joy and enthusiasm at Gourmet.
"“GOOD PARTY?” MUSTAFA ASKED AS he drove us home. “Interesting, actually,” Michael conceded. “Although I’m pretty sure I would have had a better time talking to you.” But I was riding in a limousine, my limousine, watching buildings glide past in the cool autumn night, wishing my mother were alive. This was the city she had longed to inhabit, and she would have loved knowing I had breached its walls."
"The Gourmet staff was now a solid team working seamlessly together, and Laurie’s leaving hadn’t changed that. I admired every one of the people I worked with, and I was proud of the magazine we were making. Now, for the first time, I acknowledged that it wasn’t just luck and it wasn’t an accident; I had actually spearheaded this. It made me very proud."
The time at Gourmet ends unexpectedly and she reflects on it.
"“You should read Myths to Live By (Joseph Campbell). The idea that’s been resonating with me is his notion that we must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. I’m curious about what the future might hold.”"
"What surprised me most was how much the solitude unnerved me. I had worked with people all my life and now, alone at the computer, I missed my colleagues with a pain that was nearly physical. I’d loved the collaborative nature of magazine-making, and the long solitary days at my desk were deeply depressing."
There are times where she presents herself as a naif and an impulse-driven decision-maker but I am not convinced of either. Other than that, I found this a fascinating look into several worlds that I will never be a part of. 3.5*
Ruth Reichl was a top food critic when she decided to take a job as the editor-in-chief at Gourmet Magazine, the culinary food magazine of its time. But in her new memoir we see she is so much more than the 10 year editor of Gourmet who sadly was their last as they shockingly closed in 2009.
When she was just 8 years old, coming from humble beginnings with a mother who was bipolar and spent hours and days and months in deep depression, and a father who not only adored Ruth, but adored his wife none the less, she read her first issue of Gourmet Magazine and she was hooked. It was then she made the decision to pursue something in the food industry, so when offered the job at the magazine she was frightened, honored and excited.
Feeling as if everyday would be her last, Reichl went on to change the magazine's direction into the popular bibliophile it became under her tenure.
She tells stories in the book of making a bet of $100 that they would not lose subscribers if they put a dead fish on the cover (they did not), to writer David Foster Wallace's travel piece about a Maine Lobster Festival and the killing of lobsters.
We also meet many of the eccentric personalities who graced the halls during her tenure. We see how her immediate family, her son Nick, a young child when she took the job and her husband Michael supported her and gave her sage feedback and advice. She also describes the aftermath of 9/11 and how the New York food industry bonded together to assist the first responders.
There are mouthwatering descriptions of meals she has had the pleasure of experiencing which make the reader wish they had been there to witness and taste. And if that is not enough, she even includes a few of her favorite recipes.
As a fan of Reichl, I loved her novel Delicious and her travel show on television, I ravenously"ate up" her stories and her life during her time at Gourmet.
Thank you #NetGalley #Random House #Save Me the Plums #Ruth Reichl The book will be out on April 2. If you enjoyed this review please follow me at Lisascubby.com. Happy Reading!
My love affair with Ruth Reichl's memoirs began with "Tender At the Bone" which chronicled her tumultuous childhood with her mentally ill mother. The second book that continued her career in the food world was "Comfort Me With Apples and for some reason, I found this book a little flat, but then she wrote "Garlic and Sapphires" and I was entranced. Her stories about being a food critic for the NY Times and how she had to constantly disguise herself was fascinating, and even though I will most likely never get the chance to eat many of the foods she critiqued, the descriptions were out of this world. Then I wasn't very impressed with "My Kitchen Year" about how cooking saved her life after she lost her job as Gourmet magazine's editor.
So I was a little apprehensive about reading this next memoir but it turned out to an engaging look at her life as Gourmet magazine's editor. I adore books with details about the inner-workings of any kind of job and the processes and day-to-day details of how the magazine operated were riveting, although there were times Ruth was a little too detailed in her physical descriptions of her staff and bosses (but I did find myself googling images to see what they really looked like) and I got a little confused over who was who on the staff. Ruth also interwove stories about her personal life (both marriage and parents) and hearing how her son evolved into a gourmet was heart-warming.
I think anyone who loved Gourmet magazine and is still grieving its demise or just want to find out the operations of a high-end magazine will find this as fascinating as I did.
Thanks to the publisher (Penguin Random House) for the advance reading copy.
I never read Gourmet magazine. I have never really read many magazines. I assumed it was just a stuffy, snobby food magazine with recipes that were too difficult to make. I remember hearing about the cancellation of Gourmet, but I didn’t know what it meant. Now, years later, I’m listening to the memoir of Ruth Reichl about her ten years as editor-in-chief of the magazine, while it’s favored sister publication, Bon Appétit, implodes. This memoir is about food and an exposé of the pre-recession magazine world. It’s about work and taking chances and failure and being yourself.
I was truly blown away by this memoir. Reichl is an amazing writer who knows how to describe food in a tantalizing way with such imagery I can picture it in my mind. She also writes a very compelling memoir where we all know the end. Yet, I couldn’t put this book out of my mind and I was so excited to return to it. Reichl was the former restaurant critic for the New York Times and takes a big leap professionally as EIC of Gourmet. She describes the business, the food, the interesting larger-than-life figures. We learn about key moments in the life of the magazine: an essay by David Foster Wallace, a cover with a fish, a Gourmet online presence...without recipes. Reichl invites readers on her journey, building to an inevitable end, thinking maybe it can be avoided, maybe there is hope.
As Bon Appétit emerged from the recession with a huge online presence, YouTube channel, and test kitchen stars, it’s clear much of this was first attempted with Gourmet based on Reichl’s ideas. And now as Bon Appétit reckons with racism and discrimination in its house, it’s interesting to think what might have happened if Gourmet was the one who survived.
More than just food and magazine culture, this book was actually an inspiration. It describes a woman who took a big risk, and ultimately failed. But she did some amazing work as a food writer, journalist, editor-in-chief whose effects can be seen all over food media today. Ruth Reichl is an inspiration in integrity and grace. I loved this book and I’m going to the library right now to check out her others. ★★★★★ ◊ Audiobook ◊ Nonfiction - Memoir ◊ Borrowed from the San Jose public library. ◊ Published by Random House, April 2, 2019. ◾︎