A juicy memoir ripe for all seasons.
November’s food book pick is Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Years by Ruth Reichl.
Many mourned the abrupt shuttering of Gourmet magazine in 2009. (Kim Severson’s essay for the New York Times on its close is a great read.) This memoir of Reichl’s time as the magazine’s final editor-in-chief provides a deeply satisfying look back at the magazine, with some juicy inside scoop. All the while, she weaves personal recipes into a strong narrative.
The book follows a chronological format. It begins at the end of her tenure as food critic for the New York Times — a period she memoir’d in the excellent and frequently hilarious Garlic and Sapphires. While still working at the Times, Reichl thrusts herself into the job as Gourmet’s editor-in-chief. Here, she learns to play a very different food writing game.
Reichl details the culture shock of joining Condé Nast’s chauffeured, first-class-all-the-way lifestyle. She also dives into all the uncomfortable parts. There are tough staffing changes. Growing pains abound as she takes the magazine’s vibe from stuffy, formal recipes to more approachable, creative recipes with important feature pieces.
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Finally, the book provides the ultimate insider look at the agonizing close of a magazine so beloved that it was eulogized like an old friend, and where old copies are treasured like heirlooms.
Reichl’s writes with the intelligence, vulnerability, and warmth of a great storyteller. The book is an easy and engrossing read perfect for Thanksgiving travel or a cozy day off.