I can’t recall where I first read about Garlic & Sapphires but it must have been a positive review as I immediately added the book to my Amazon wishlist. Thanks to kind friends, it popped through my letterbox over Christmas and I tore through it during the first two days of the new year.
The fourth book by former restaurant critic Ruth Reichl, Garlic And Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Food Critic is a wonderfully entertaining meander through Reichl’s working life at The New York Times. Essentially a string of anecdotes strung together with a simplified personal narrative, it’s almost always amusing, often enlightening and occasionally touching too.
Tales of creating deliciously audacious disguises with wigs, wardrobes and wicked backstories are interspersed with stories of visiting many of New York’s best known restaurants, and many lesser known places as well. These chapters include the restaurant reviews as they were published in the paper, giving a great insight into how Reichl translated the multiple visits she made to each restaurant into succinct and pithy pieces for print.
Keen cooks may also appreciate the seventeen recipes Reichl has shared; related to events in the book, they range from New York cheesecake to hash browns to vanilla cake to spaghetti carbonara.
At first, Reichl revels in her new role, relishing the chance to transform herself into an increasing number of alter egos which we too can giggle and gasp over. But just as the reader pales of the endless parade of new characters, so does Reichl, increasingly dissatisfied with these deceptions and her own changes in behaviour as a result.
It’s not a deep book, by any means, and yet we do go on a journey with the author from start to finish.
An enjoyable read; perfect for a long hot soak in the tub or whiling away the time in the airport lounge or on the train.
Garlic And Sapphires by Ruth Reichl is available in paperback (RRP £8.99).