Drinks, food, Recipes, Uncategorized

Ruth Reichl Food Novels

I adore food books. For me, paging through a recipe book with beautiful pictures is almost as good as actually enjoying a meal. Even as a child, my most memorable parts of books always seemed to be the eating and drinking bits. I was more interested in what the Famous Five had packed for their picnic, than in what their adventure was all about. Exploding sherbet-filled Google Buns and Pop Cakes that fill your mouth with honey captured my attention above the worlds at the top of the Faraway Tree, and Anne and Diana getting drunk on ‘raspberry cordial’ in Anne of Green Gables fascinated me no end. Perhaps it’s because I find such comfort in the subject, but the mounting pile of books on my bedside table are mostly gastro-topical. There are so many lauded and noteworthy food writers (A.A. Gill and Anthony Bourdain for example, produce immensely entertaining works), but one of my top authors has to be Ruth Reichl. Having been the food editor and critic at the Los Angeles Times for nine years, restaurant critic for the New York Times for six years and editor of the now (sadly) defunct Gourmet magazine for 10 years up until its close; she’s something of a pioneer in the world of food writing. Her trilogy of memoirs takes pride of place on my bookshelf. I am mean about lending them out (as I have a habit of forgetting who I have lent books to) but also because I love to revisit them every now and again. Also, her Artpark Brownies on page 244 of Tender at the Bone: Growing Up At the Table is the best brownie recipe I have ever tried, so heaven forbid I find myself without it when I need to whip up a batch. Through sheer ignorance and because I can be a real ditz, I read Ruth Reichl’s works backwards. But I was immediately addicted to the emotion she infuses in her writing—her subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) humour, passion for food, pathos and most of all, the way you can almost feel the food slipping down your throat as you read her descriptions. Even her tweets (@ruthreichl) are lyrical and delicious! In an attempt not to further confuse, I would recommend that her works are read in chronological order, starting with Tender at the Bone: Growing Up At the Table (1998), then Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table (2001), and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Food Critic (2005). As a fan, I am ashamed to say that I have not yet read the latest of her autobiographical accounts, Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way (2009), but when I do eventually get around to it, there will be a no-disturbance rule and a plate of those dangerously good Artpark Brownies at my side. And I will devour it in one go! Ruth Reichl’s books are available from good book stores countrywide, from about R140. Note: It is recommended to have something delicious on-hand when reading any of these novels.   Text by Raphaella Frame Photo by Frank Ellis