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Garlic and Sapphires : The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
Garlic and Sapphires The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise Author:Ruth Reichl This delicious new volume of Ruth Reichl's acclaimed memoirs recounts her "adventures in deception," as she goes undercover in the world's finest restaurants. Reichl knows that "to be a good restaurant critic, you have to be anonymous," but when she signs up to be the most important restaurant critic in the country, a... more »t The New York Times, her picture is posted in every four-star, low-star, and no-star kitchen in town. Managers offer cash bonuses for advance notice of her visits. They roll out the red carpet whether she likes it or not. What's a critic in search of the truth to do?
Reichl dons a frumpy blond wig and an off-season beige Armani suit. Then on the advice of a friend, an acting coach with a Pygmalion complex, she begins assembling her new character's backstory. She takes to the assignment with astonishing ardor - and thus Molly Hollis, the retired high school teacher from Birmingham, Michigan, nouveau riche from her husband's real estate speculation, is born. And duly ignored, mishandled, and condescended to by the high-power staff at Le Cirque. The result: Reichl's famous double review, first as she ate there as Molly and then as she was coddled and pampered on her visit there as Ruth, The New York Times food critic.
When restaurateurs learn to watch for Molly, Reichl buys another wig and becomes someone else, and then someone else again, from a chic interior decorator to an eccentric redhead on whom her husband -both disconcertingly and reassuringly- develops a terrible crush. As she puts on her disguises, she finds herself changed not just superficially, but in character. She becomes Molly the schoolmarm, Chloe the seductress, and Brenda the downtown earth mother - and imagine the complexities when she dines out as Miriam, her own mother. As Reichl metes out her critical stars, she gives a remarkable account of how one's outer appearance can influence one's inner character, expectations, and appetites.
Reichl writes, "Every restaurant is a theater...even the modest restaurants offer the opportunity to become someone else, at least for a little while."« less
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Absolutely wonderful. When Reichl agrees to become the restaurant critic for the NY Times, she has no idea how her life will change. Forced into disguises to see how the non-celebrity actually experiences a restaurant the story becomes unexpectedly analytical. But the gustatorial experiences are more than you can possibly imagine. Reichl brings the food to life, and we share her delight in the exquisite and her dismay at the meals that are hype with nothing to appreciate. She even includes recipes! I found myself wishing this book would go on and on.
Fois gras, anyone? She seemed to eat a lot of that in this book. I enjoyed her lovely descriptions of the foods she sampled at New York's finest (and not so fine) restaurants. Her disguises were mostly funny, but sometimes poignant. The book has a really nice ending, too.
Reichl has a flair for words and for description that makes this a wonderful read. She gives equal attention to people and food and brings everything together. Her stories and her personal development are alternately funny, sad, and sweet and a joy to read.
Ellen H. (eeeee) reviewed Garlic and Sapphires : The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise on
Helpful Score: 4
Very enjoyable light read about Reichl's stint as food critic for the New York Times. Interesting insights into both the restaurant world and journalism. I loaned this to a friend who has been working her way through the recipes...the chocolate cake was quite good.