This is a book you read with your senses, perhaps the same way you would watch a movie like Ratatouille. Ruth Reichl is a great memoirist, funny, sacarstic, candid and this book contains a good combination of recipes, epiphanies and memories.
Ruth was so determined to present the "true" nature of restaurants she reviewed that she would show up incognito, having taken classes from a drama teacher to appear in costume and to mimic people she'd met, including her late mother, 'Betty' a dishevelled, insignificant old lady and the 'nicest' and 'worst' versions of herself. Each chapter details one dining experience, complete with the review that accompanied it from the New York Times.
She also shares about her own experience of being the most powerful reviewer in America, her quest to expose Americans and New Yorkers in particular, to foods of different cultures and the debilitating effect the power, influence and judgementalism of her work, had on her life and family. Her descriptions are rich and satisfying- Colin doesn't even like sashimi and he was dying to experience the Japanese restaurant she wrote about!
I also found poignance in the ending of the book, where she stopped writing reviews and grew on to become the editor for Gourmet magazine. "I really wanted to go home and cook for my family," she says. "I don't think there's one thing more important you can do for your kids than have family dinner."
I liked everything about book except two things. One was the way she lit into former colleagues, the New York Times is of course a catty, political place to work but still! The second thing was that at times, having heard so much about her ability to make food come alive, I felt that her renditions fell short of actually experiencing her meals without eating. A throughly entertaining and enjoyable read though and a must for every aspiring food critic!
Her other books are Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples.