Gourmet Wordsmith: Ruth Reichl

She writes poetry on food… in prose.

She is an award-winning American food writer, co-producer of PBS’s Gourmet Diary of a Foodie, host of PBS’s Gourmet Adventures with Ruth. Along with that, she was also the last editor-in-chief of the now shuttered Gourmet magazine.

Ruth has written a trilogy of critically acclaimed, best-selling memoirs: Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table, and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.  Her latest book is Gourmet Today a 1,008 page cookbook containing over 1,000 recipes.

And this is a condensed introduction, because we don’t have the page-count to devote to her achievements, much as we would like to. Suffice it to say that you should read Ruth Reichl if you aspire to be a food writer. Or are one. You should read her if you love food, and love the written word. You should read her. Period.

Ruth’s Writings (extracted from her journal):

Walking down the rue Mouffetard in the early Paris morning is a completely sensual experience. This time of year, the strawberries perfume the street, and the fat white asparagus are everywhere, poking up with a curiously aggressive air. Meanwhile the cauliflowers curl shyly into their protective green leaves, as if reluctant to emerge and face the sassy herbs in their bold bunches.

Lemons make me happy; they always have. I may run out of milk, eggs and coffee, but I am never without lemons. When I am feeling sad I’ll open the refrigerator, reach for a lemon and run my fingers across the peel for the pure pleasure of the scent. It always improves my mood.

Straight off the tree, an apricot is a shy and retiring fruit, reluctant to display its charms. Add a little heat, however, and it reveals its true character.  This is a flirtatious fruit, teasing you with sweetness before turning on you with a sour smile. By turns sweet, acid and sour, a cooked apricot is a juicy and endlessly fascinating companion that likes to keep you guessing.

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The surprise of finding wild blackberries creeping along the edges of the woods is one of the great pleasures of these deep summer days. Even the mean wild vines, stretching out their vicious thorns to scratch you, cannot dim the pleasure. The purple juice stains your fingers for days – a trophy, a tattoo.

In my dreams, sometimes, I walk down a New York sidestreet and find a simple, sunlit trattoria, the tables a bit rickety, the door open wide. The chef beckons me inside.  He sets bread, cheese, and salume on the table, picks up a plate and fills it with hand-made pasta topped with the simplest tomato sauce.  Music washes through the air. There is grilled meat, sautéed spinach, a splash of wine. One tiny cup of espresso. I go dancing out the door.

Ruth Reichl also shares some of the most useful tips and fascinating tricks we have come across! You can find more of her writings here.

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