I said when I started this food blog that I would review food-related books. I really meant to do that. I really did. I swore I would write my review of Jennifer 8. Lee's The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. I really meant to. Somehow my review never made it here. I had too many recipes to share I guess.
Anyway, I'm trying to uphold my own intentions by reviewing Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires. I feel as if I'd be doing a disservice if I didn't review it.
If you love eating in restaurants, you will not be able to put this book down. The book chronicles Reichl's first-person experience in her career as the restaurant critic for The New York Times. As soon as she comes to New York, she is warned that her photo is posted in kitchens at restaurants all over the city. Everyone knows she is the new food critic and she is aware that this will affect the quality of her meal.
In order to remain anonymous, Reichl adopts a series of disguises. With each disguise she creates a new persona as well. Her character determines how she will treat the staff. It is particularly funny when she impersonates her overbearing mother in The 21 Club. (You actually feel sorry for the staff.) The contrast you see of how she is treated when she is not in disguise is shocking as well. A particularly horrific contrast is how she and another Times VIP are treated at Le Cirque after she had been there in disguise and was treated horribly. If you have ever suspected that VIPs get better food and better treatment at the finer restaurants, this will confirm your every suspicion. The hottie-tottie places are not all that keen on giving the best of everything to ordinary folks (even the size of the raspberries in the dessert changes when you're a big shot).
Of course the other fun part of this book is Reichl's description of many of the foods she eats. Reichl was highly criticized for her affection for Asian cuisines when she started at the Times. It's hard to believe such a thing considering how she reviews these places. She made me crave Chinese, Japanese, and Korean all within a few chapters. I don't eat fish and she made me want to eat sushi after one particular chapter. You will come away from this book craving soba noodles like you have never craved them before. Of course her descriptions of some of the better fine dining establishments made me wish I had a bigger food budget.
I think one thing I really took away from this book is how writing and reviewing food (a subjective subject) and the ability to really savor, enjoy and taste are so entertwined. Reichl goes into so many details about the nuances of things she eats. You have to really be tasting things to be able to write so many adjectives about them. It made me conscious of how my food blog could be better and also conscious of how I taste things. Although I'm a picky eater, I'm easy to please in many ways. How often do you hear me say bad things about restaurants? I often like places other people think are overrated. I think that's because I tend to snarf my food down. When you hose a plateful in 10 minutes, you not only miss a lot of flavor, but you also put yourself at bigger risk of stuffing yourself. If I ate a bit more daintily, perhaps I'd have less of a weight problem.
If you love a good food read, run to your bookstore now and pick up a copy of this book!