Thursday, April 25, 2019

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl saved me this month. She got me out of a reading funk. When my life is a bit hectic, and I'm feeling stressed and just blah, I like to read something light and fun. If it includes food, even better. 

Ruth's memoir centers on her time as Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine for ten years, up until the day it suddenly folded. Known as the New York Times food critic, she ate out 14 times a week, was rarely home at night, and conscious that her son was growing up and she wasn't spending time at home with her family. Approached to take the job at Gourmet, she was a bit flabbergasted. She had no experience with magazines; she'd been a journalist, writer, and food critic for years-but no magazine experience. Gourmet magazine held a special place in Ruth's heart. She had begun reading the magazine as a young girl and yes, even tried some of the recipes for her family. Now she had the chance to be the editor of the magazine! Still uncertain, she finally listened to her friends, who all said "Of course you can do this job. What are you waiting for?!"

Ten years at Gourmet magazine taught Ruth a lot about the magazine business, and how to play the game. She turned Gourmet from a stuffy, out of touch food magazine to one that reached out to every day people who loved to cook, and embraced the changing American food landscape. Hiring the best people, giving her staff a chance to run with their creativity, she made bold choices that could have ended in disaster. Gourmet, unfortunately, ended suddenly-Ruth and her staff were given one day's notice it would be shuttered. The declining economy, the disaster of Wall Street, people losing jobs...Gourmet was one of the victims of the economic downturn of 2009. 

I love the way Ruth writes. She certainly has a gift; her descriptions of food are scrumptious. What I got the most out of this memoir was Ruth's willingness to take chances, her enjoyment of the small moments, and the pleasure in eating out for the sheer joy of it instead of as a career and a job requirement. Her faith in her staff was refreshing to read. Most of all, her ability to stay true to herself in a world where so many people played the game spoke volumes about the person she was-and that's what made this such an interesting memoir. 

I can't wait to read more Ruth Reichl. You don't have to be a foodie to enjoy this memoir. It is about a talented woman who took chances, was vulnerable, loved her staff, and never forgot the wonder of reading Gourmet as a little girl. That wonder kick-started her love of food writing at a very young age. 

There are also a few recipes in the memoir that are some of Ruth's favorites. 

Rating: 4/6 for an inside look at how a magazine works, the beautiful and talented writing of Ruth Reichl, and of course, all the food. The rise and fall of Gourmet magazine, which published for 60 years, is, quite frankly, sad. 

Available in hardcover audio, and ebook. 

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