From New York Times food critic to … editor-in-chief of a magazine? Ruth Reichl chronicles her trials and triumphs at the helm of legendary epicurean magazine, Gourmet, in her latest book.
For those of you who know my reading taste well, you’ll know that this book might as well say “Written for Megan Prokott” on the jacket. I mean look at this list: Powerful female author? Check. Discussion on the importance of the arts? Check. Day to day view into the creation of a magazine? Check. Written from the perspective of a chef? Check. Multiple trips to Paris? Check!
I am equally happy to report that Save Me the Plums is everything I wanted it to be. I was a huge Ruth Reichl fan before and now I like her even more knowing that she’s such a badass woman who unassumingly took something average and outdated (Gourmet magazine pre-Ruth) and made it cutting-edge and incredible. The beauty of this memoir is that it can be enjoyed both by people with an interest in reading about kitchens, food, restaurants, and chefs and by those who are intrigued by the arts, magazines, editorial, and publishing as a whole.
What ultimately draws me to food literature is the opportunity to look at the act of eating, which can be rote and, at times, a chore, with a new frame of reference. Reichl’s memoir delivers on this, as the articles she discusses and publishes are clever, unusual, and show that the culinary world is intricately wrapped up in sustainability, distant cultures, morality, ethics, style, and so much more. The chapter devoted to her work with David Foster Wallace and his iconic trip to the Maine Lobster Festival led me to pick up the book of his essays I’d forgotten about with new context. Reading Consider the Lobster in this book of essays after hearing Ruth’s editorial perspective and also with the knowledge that this exact essay made an enormous splash in the pages of Gourmet magazine all those years ago allowed me to enjoy that piece of work so much more than had I read it without knowing those additional details.
I also loved the emphasis Reichl puts on finding the right people for the right job at Gourmet, as well as the time she spent talking about her failures. To see a strong woman step up to bat and take a few strikes is so important. Often we follow the story of success in terms of various wins that led to the dream life, so it’s refreshing and honest to hear about someone who has so clearly found success yet is also Googling her way through things she doesn’t understand.
Overall? Save Me the Plums is an absolute delight that will sate your dreams of working a mile a minute at Vogue, as well as your appetite for gastronomy.
Thank you to Random House for gifting me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own!