Reading Culinary Memoirs — A Guilty Pleasure

How sinfully delicious it can be to read culinary memoirs. The stories are entertaining, often quite humorous and the descriptions of the food may be mouth watering but, luckily, not caloric. If you’ve never read a book in this particular genre before, prepare to be entertained.

I suggest you start with one of my personal favorites, Ruth Reichl.

Read Reichl at your own risk! You’ll most likely get hooked by the expressive, lyrical  and mouthwatering prose written by the former food critic for the New York Times and current Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine. Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table is the first of her three memorable autobiographical books. This sometimes sad, often funny memoir comes complete with classic recipes she has collected since her childhood days. Recounting her life with her aloof book designer father and her bipolar mother, Reichl allows us a glimpse into her fascinating world as she travels and explores, taking the opportunity to turn each adventure into a gastronomic memory. From sampling fine French cuisine at her boarding schoolmate’s home in Montreal, eating couscous in Tunisia or living in a commune-like seventeen room mansion in Berkeley in the 1970s, each experience leads her closer and closer to her future careers in the food industry.

Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table begins where Reichl left off in her first book and follows her through her career from chef to food writer as she deals with various personal crises along the way. Her trips to China, Thailand and other far flung locations will expose you to unusual foods as well as those countries’ cultures. Her use of food to punctuate various events of her life add to this delicious read as she captivates with the sensory descriptions she uses to describe even the most mundane meals.

And to save the best for last, Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise really ups the ante and provides another delectable reading experience. Reichl relates how she landed the job of New York Times Food Critic and reveals how the politics inside the newspaper and the pressure she was under to review certain restaurants were substantial. Somehow, she found a way to review those dining locations she was most interested in and never compromised her own principles as a critic.

The lengths that she was willing to go to guarantee that she was treated as an average customer at the restaurants she was reviewing were truly ingenious. Through disguises, wigs, accents and other foils to trick the chefs, owners and maitre d’s she was able to dine incognito. In most cases, this gave her the opportunity to experience each location as any average diner might, the good, the bad and the ugly included. Her reviews from many of New York City’s storied restaurants that are added to the end of the chapters are a delight to read in their own right.

Savor all three of these books from this talented writer.

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