Garlic and Sapphires
By Ruth Reichl
The world of restaurants, food critics and of course food has always been so interesting to me. The art of creating food masterpieces and then a person’s job is to taste and critique these? That sounds like pure heaven to me, and doing it in New York City with so many choices, so much culture and life? Even better. Reichl takes you back to mid 1990’s when she leaves her job in Los Angeles to move across the country to become the food critic for the New York Times. In this one move she becomes the top face that restaurants look out for. She is a celebrity that restaurant workers memorize every little fact about. They learn all there is to know about her so if she ever shows up at their establishment they will amaze her. This can be an amazing experience knowing you are getting the best of the best, but is it real? Is this what happens all the time? There is only one way to find out. You must un-become yourself, take away the famous face and transform into a character, a disguise, a regular person. That is exactly what Reichl does.
Each chapter of the book introduces you to a different personality, a different character Reichl becomes so she can try the restaurants undercover. The disguises include outfit changes, glasses, wigs, makeup, and even some small acting lessons to fully embrace the person she must become for that restaurant experience. From the confident head turning older woman Chloe, to the eccentric Brenda with a wig of crazy red curls and vintage finery, to Betty a quiet old grandma who can barely speak over a whisper and is practically invisible in the dining situations. Reichl discovers quickly that one’s outward appearance really can change as well as impact the way one is received and served.
One of the amazing things about New York City is there are so many little gems hidden in tucked away streets. Authentic cuisine up flights of stairs concealed behind shops or not well marked with huge lit up signs. These are usually the places you find the most amazing meals though and Reichl brings you to quite a few and rates them very highly as compared to some of the more well known restaurants in the city. This shocks people, but makes me personally love her even more because she shows she is truly searching for that good food no matter the cost or reputation. She definitely catches flack for this in her reviews for example when she gives a small Korean restaurant a higher rating that one of the top restaurants in New York.
Sprinkled throughout this book are recipes as well beloved by her. Some of them seem daunting when you first read the title, but she makes the steps simple and accessible for anyone to try. Who knew making a leg of lamb could sound so easy? And New York Cheesecake in just a few easy steps? Yes please!
This book was so easy to dive right into and it wound it’s grip around me quickly making it hard to put down. Reichl’s writing was so descriptive you could see yourself sitting by her in the restaurants or exploring the shops in New York. Definitely felt like a comfort book to me and I wished it had gone on forever, but I am very glad she at least has other books to read on other topics. I will definitely be checking out more of her writing as should you! One of the review comments for this book read “Reading Ruth Reichl on food is almost as good as eating it.” and I couldn’t agree more!
2 Comments Add yours
Mikaela: Your review of Garlic & Sapphires was so interesting that I went out and bought the book! I’m only part way through it, but it is every bit as interesting as you stated in your review. I’m really enjoying it, and I know from reading your blog the book will only get better!
And the recipes! I’m really looking forward to trying that New York Cheesecake recipe! It’s a favourite that I’ve sampled in almost every restaurant I’ve visited!
Thanks for mentioning this book! Lol, back to spending my evening with my nose in a book. 😍
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Oh yeah!!! Enjoy!