Weekly Geeks: What is it about “that” author?

March 8, 2010 at 12:10 am 5 comments

Tell your readers what is it about an author that you are most passionate about, that have you coming back for more from them, following their every blog post – literally blackmailing people to read their books? Who are some of your all time favourite authors? And what is it about them that makes you keep going back for more?

This week’s Weekly Geeks prompt really got me thinking. Is there an author I love that much? There are authors I love, don’t get me wrong, but many of them are dead, so blog-stalking and attending midnight launches of new books just doesn’t happen for me. At any rate, I don’t want to write yet another post on why Dickens is awesome.

Instead, I am going to talk about Ruth Reichl. She’s best known for being the former editor of Gourmet magazine, and before that she was a restaurant critic for the New York Times. But she’s also an incredible memoirist, author of Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, Garlic and Sapphires, and Not Becoming My Mother.

Reichl is passionate about food, and has an incredible ability to saturate the reader in the smells, sights, and flavors of the food she describes in her books. From the half-rotting concoctions her cooking-impaired mother makes to the amazing noodles at an out-of-the-way noodle house in New York, everything is portrayed in gloriously decadent prose.

Don’t misunderstand what I mean when I say “decadent” — Reichl is a journalist at heart, and so communicates the luxuriousness of her food-related experiences by using remarkably economic prose. Every word is chosen carefully, and her overall style is straightforward, intimate, and honest.

Her work is not just about food, though. Food is the common thread in at least the first three memoirs, but the thread runs through diverse experiences such as living a bohemian lifestyle in Berkeley, working as an underpaid journalist, meeting a quirky quilter in New York, throwing massive parties while parents are out of town, and watching a roommate be drawn into the black power movement. Reichl has somehow managed to make her chronicle of food into a chronicle of an era — or two, or three, as these works encompass a few decades.

I am an admitted Twitter-stalker of Reichl’s — I take voyeuristic pleasure in knowing what she ate for breakfast (normally unusual and fascinating), what she’s reading on the NYT website, and where she went for dinner last night. Twitter is a great medium to showcase her “poetic economy” when it comes to writing. Take this tweet for example:

Early NY morning: conversations with sidewalk strangers. Familiar fog of crowded coffee shop. Toasted corn muffin, crisp, sweet, buttery.

Sheer brilliance in 137 characters.

The only cookbook I own besides my own recipe binder is Reichl’s Gourmet cookbook with the yellow cover; I’m sure with Passover coming up and matzos being in abundance, I’ll soon be trying her recipe for matzo brei. I cannot wait until Not Becoming My Mother comes in at my local library. In short, I love Ruth Reichl’s work, and hopefully this post has convinced you that you should, too. :)

– KT


Entry filed under: Weekly Geeks. Tags: , , .

The Literary Oscars Discussion Questions: Persuasion

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Corey  |  March 8, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Wow! I’m definitely convinced. She sounds like your Anne Fadiman! Where do you recommend I start in the Reichl canon?

    • 2. KT  |  March 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm

      I started with Garlic and Sapphires, but if you want to go chronologically and you’re not that much of a foodie, start with Comfort Me with Apples! It’s all about Reichl’s growing up in New York and moving to the West Coast :D

      • 3. Corey  |  March 9, 2010 at 6:14 am

        Ooo, sounds good! I’ll go order away from the library. :)

  • 4. Wendy  |  March 10, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Thanks for reminding me that I MUST read something by this author. I love books which incorporate food into them…and Reichl has long been on my list of “to read” authors. Thanks for this great post!

  • […] there are plenty of authors I love, and I’ve written paeans to favorite authors (Ruth Reichl and Anne Fadiman leap to mind). But oddly, though I wrote a short biography on this woman, […]


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