Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Review: Garlic and Sapphires

I just finished reading Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl.  The book is about Reichl's experiences as the new restaurant critic for the New York Times.  Reichl talks about the great lengths she went to so she wouldn't be recognized, describes experiences at several major New York restaurants (both in disguise and not), and imparts some insights about food, restaurants, and life in general that she gained in the process.

The book is witty and captivating.  I didn't want to put it down and finished it a little too quickly.  Reichl talked mostly about food and being a foodie, but also about being a mother and wife and friend and food in the broader context of life.  Several of her own recipes are scattered throughout the book and although I haven't tried any yet, they all sound delicious.

The deepest message I found in the book was the idea that we all really have several personalities inside us.  We collect ideas and traits throughout our lives which create unique personalities.  Reichl found that the people she became really were versions of her own self mixed with people she'd had contact with.  It was interesting that while in disguise every aspect of her changed, including her mannerisms, appearance, and even the way she related to the food she ate.

It was disconcerting the way people treated her differently depending on her disguise.  I would like to think that people are treated equally regardless of the way they dress or speak or carry themselves, but the book points out the obvious disparity between this view and reality.  Especially in the world of fine dining it seems that it decidedly does matter who you are, what you look like, and how you carry yourself.

Garlic and Sapphires offers a unique glimpse into the life of a food critic.  I'm jealous.  How do I get her job?  I'd recommend this book to any aspiring foodie.  The glimpse of a life completely immersed in food is refreshing and exciting.  Definitely worth the read!

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