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Save Me the Plums | Ruth Reichl | 2019, 288 pages | Nonfiction
Ruth Reichl was a restaurant reviewer for the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times and an author. She knew nothing about running a magazine. So she was floored when Condé Nast asked if she would like to be editor in chief of Gourmet magazine.
Ruth’s love affair with Gourmet started when she was 8 years old and she visited a used book shop with her father. On the floor were some old Gourmet magazines, and one had a story in it about eating lobster in Maine.
“A story called ‘Night of Lobster’ caught my eye, and as I began to read, the walls faded, the shop around me vanishing until I was sprawled on the sands of a small island off the coast of Maine. The tide was coming in, water tickling my feet as it crept across the beach. It was deep night, the sky like velvet, spangled with stars.
“Much later I understood how lucky I was to have stumbled on that story. The author, Robert P. Tristram Coffin, was the poet laureate of Maine and a Pulitzer Prize winner with such an extraordinary gift for words that I could hear the hiss of a giant kettle and feel the bonfire burning as the flames leapt into the night. The fine spicy fragrance of lobster was so real to me that I reached for one, imagined tossing it from hand to hand until the shell was cool enough to crack. The meat was tender, briny, rich. Somewhere off in the distance a fish splashed, then swam silently away.”
She loved the magazine and learned to cook. But she never imagined that she would be the editor in chief of a magazine such as Gourmet, have staff, a clothing budget, a driver and a large salary. Ruth gets to know the staff, the chefs in the test kitchen, the publicists, artists, and photographers. It’s an unknown and ever-changing world, and Ruth struggles to understand its dynamics. Her goal is to create a magazine that cooks want to buy, read and try the recipes in it – recipes that are not too complicated, but still gourmet.
Ruth is a wonderful writer. She’s written cookbooks and memoirs. Some of my favorites are Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, and Sapphires and Garlic: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise. And her novel, Delicious!, is fantastic foodie fiction.
Robbin Bailey, Reference Librarian