Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Book review: Comfort me with Apples by Ruth Reichl

"The wine was strong. The garlic was pungent... Before long the entire room as giddy with garlic euphoria. Wrapped up in fumes of garlic, we ate galantines of pigeon, duck, and quail with garlic mosaics. ...Platters of spring lamb were brought out, surrounded by three garlic-infused purees. We washed the meat down with oceans of deep, dark Zinfandel. "[in California at a garlic extravaganza]

"What is that?" I asked. "How dong", he said. "It is always cheap, and it is always hot. It is made of miscellaneous meat; it could be anything - snake, muskrat, baby lion. The recipe calls for lots of chilies, pepper, and spice to mask the flavor of the meat. " [ in Thailand tasting local food]

This little memoir called Comfort me with Apples is written by Ruth Reichl, the current editor of fancy-pantsy food magazine Gourmet (yes, we subscribe), and former restaurant critic for New York Times, where she dressed up in different wigs and costumes so the chefs shouldn't recognize her (as you can read in another great book called Garlic and Sapphires).

This book is how it all got started, how she lived in a house shared with friends in Berkeley, California, and one day was offered to start reviewing restaurants without really having any practice at it. It is several stories in one book, both a true description of the building of a career and its ups and downs and uncertainties and happiness and the love for food and the people that make and eat it. But also a description of the dissolution of her marriage at the same time. She talks honestly, funnily, and sometimes very emotionally about finding love, losing it, and in the meantime, eating good, comforting food, and less good food.

She travels to Paris, to China, and to Thailand to write about the food and the people, and her book manages to create living people. You see living dining tables heaped with wonderfully smells of garlic, lamb, fruits, French cheeses, wine, and fresh-picked vegetables in front of your eyes. I loved this book; it sustained me on a long airplane trip where they didn't even serve peanuts anymore. (And yes, there are recipes in it too!)

1 comment:

O.K. said...

Good review, now I'm hungry!

Question: How do you cook something very hot without having the peppers dominating the other tastes too much?