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10 thoughts on “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

  1. says:

    Reichl served as the New York Times food critic from 1993 to 1999, and this book is about her years as The New York Times Food Critic but it s also about her struggle to evade the identity of The New York Times Food Critic tm and get people an honest, egalitarian review of what, exactly, they re going to get out of their meal.I vaguely remember bits and pieces of the controversy when Reichl took over the reins, but this book really blew the whole thing open The problems she was facing were twofold one, she wanted to cover a wider range of food than the previous snooty French coverage the NYT had tended to, thus necessitating not only developing a way to consistently evaluate cross food ethnicity, but also a way to convince Yr Av g Noo Yawka that these cuisines were worthy of attention but importantly, two, it was impossible to evaluate what kind of dining experience a normal person would have in the cut throat, status based New York City restaurant scene Reichl s solution create alternate selves , complete with their own personalities and quirks, and take them out to a meal she deliberately built her personae to not encode for the status that would guarantee her a world class experience is simple and elegant, and the book itself is an engaging interaction with the idea of national privilege and identity as it plays out on restuarant tables Her examples are well chosen, and she writes beautifully clear, direct, and entertaining She also prints recipes and reprints several of the colums that resulted from the anecdotes she relates in the book, which serve as excellent bonus material.But where the book shines is what it makes you think about Because as Sarah who read it first came across a reference to a particular dollar amount for a meal, she turned to me, read that bit out loud, and said, Is there something wrong with me that I don t think this is particularly exorbitant for a meal like that And I answered no because it didn t strike me as exorbitant either food is one of the pleasures of life, dammit My operating assumption is that life is too short to put up with bad food, bad friends, a lousy job, or uncomfortable clothing And after it was my turn for the book, I put it down upon completion, and I started to think about Reichl s main thesis that money and status are two entirely different things, and how the differing levels of privilege we all carry influence and shape us It s something I m going to keep thinking about for a long time, particularly the next time we sit down to eat out whether it be at a hole in the wall family owned joint, a Major National Chain tm , or a Dining Experience tm because Reichl has a lot of very smart, savvy, and interesting things to say, reading between the lines and sometimes overt than that about American national identity, relationship to food, and concepts of service, status, and privilege This is a no holds barred look at the best and the worst of us, and Reichl has the writing chops to pull it off.


  2. says:

    A bit sapphire than garlic Ruth Reichl s book about her time as the New York Times food critic is mainly focused on her need to don disguises in order not to be recognized in the restaurants she was reviewing and how changing her appearance opened her eyes to how people are treated due to their physical appearance and projected personality Therefore, foodies will find less about food in Garlic and Sapphires and about fashion.I was hoping for about the food I guess I neglected to read the book s subtitle, The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise I guess I ve gone too far in my efforts not to judge a book by its cover Reading and believing what the title says is kind of important Don t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading about Reichl s ridiculous hoop jumping with wigs, make up, clothing and personas in her successful efforts to fool the waitstaff of NY s finest eateries, even if her insights were nothing earth shattering I mean, most people know by now that bossy, demanding people get what they want while the meager among us get the scraps, if anything But just the same, Reichl s stories and storytelling were quite entertaining, I also voyeuristically enjoyed her descriptions of fancy NY restaurants, and there was just enough meat on dining to whet my appetite wow, that was cheesy.


  3. says:

    Some books languish on my TBR list forever it seems It s really pleasing to pick up one of these and wonder why it took me so long to read Garlic and Sapphires The Secrete Life of A Critic In Disguise was published in 2005 It might have been a bit relevant at that time but it s message about the love of good food, told with insight and humor is timeless I thoroughly enjoyed this peek into the life of a food critic I had never read any of Reichl s columns when she was editor at The New York Times but was fascinated by this memoir about her time there I never thought about what it must take to try to eat a meal that you will rate honestly if the restaurant staff is on the lookout for you Reichl comes up with new identities, clothing, make up, wigs which allow her to blend as just a diner on her forays to some of the best and other times, little known restaurants in New York I may never actually get to dine at any of the places Reichl writes about or rates Frankly even if I could some would never make my list after reading about her treatment when she visits in costume Reichl s expertise makes me savor the smells, the delight in the first bite, the eloquence in presentation, the impeccable service of a good meal The layout of the book worked well for me Narrative, Review, Recipe I enjoyed learning a bit about Reichl s background, her family, her friends, and the women she becomes to remain anonymous The recipes range from simple like Matzo Brei to a full fledged roast leg of lamb dinner I love how her son, Nicky, goes with the flow, always recognizing his mom through the outrageous get ups she comes up with Reicihl also gains insight from these women she becomes.If I were participating in a book discussion Chapter 7 would lead me to query others Heading home from an elaborate meal at La cote Basque, encounters a hungry homeless man on the subway He is begging for food, anything, even the crumbs left in the bottom of a chip bag Reichl, as Betty, hands the man her doggie bag She expects that he will tear into it but he goes to the end of the car, spreads his scarf on his lap like a napkin and proceeds to remove the wrapping, appreciating his windfall Roasted Duckling he croaked An then, very delicately, he picked the leg up in his fingers and ate it slowly, savoring every morsel Having just watched a segment of Extreme Cheapskates where a man moves through a restaurant asking diners if he can have their leftover food and another dumpster dives for food Both these left me bit grossed out I wonder why the homeless man s story touches me and the cheapskate makes me a bit ill.Reichl has written other memoirs, always with a touch of food, so much of her life Hopefully some of these will work their way up on my list.


  4. says:

    After reading Tender at the Bone, I was looking forward to of Ruth Reichl Garlic and Sapphires was not only a disappointment, it was as if a completely different person had written it It is ironic that in a book about disguises, Reichl herself was unrecognizable Far from the funny, sensitive, and sincere person she was in her first book, Reichl had transformed herself into a self absorbed snob loaded with enough hypocrisy to sink a ship.This book covers Reichl s stint as the New York Times chief restaurant critic Although she accepts the position, she has reservations about the elitist implications of the job, and vows to write for the masses those million readers who can t afford to spend 100 for a meal at a four star French restaurant Part of her mission is to expose the poor treatment many of these restaurants heap on the common man But in order to accomplish this lofty goal, Reichl must eat in disguise For if she is recognized as New York s premier restaurant critic, she ll be treated like royalty Although this obviously has no bearing on the quality of the food, it has a great deal of bearing on the quality of the experience Personally, I eat for the food The idea is cute, and for the first few chapters it was fun But Reichl shows her true colors right from the start when she heaps disdain on a bearded ignoramus wearing Birkenstocksunforgivable for having the audacity to dip his sushi rice side down, thereby ruining the clear transparent flavor, the taut crispness, and the clam that was almost baroque in its sensuality I have yet to meet a sensual or almost baroque clam, but I ll take Reichl s word for it Reichl then reminisces about her trip to Japan, in which she is first exposed to the proper way to eat Japanese food I m pretty sure the guy in Birkenstocks could not afford to go to Japan for eating lessons In her other encounters with diners at top notch restaurants Reichl indulges in so much blatant one up manship that you simply can t sympathize with her concern for the simple folk no matter how much she tries to dress like them The verbal food fights with the poor guy she picks up in a bar as the vampish Chloe what s up with THAT , and with the self avowed food warrior were downright churlish After proclaiming that there is no right way to eat food, Reichl clearly demonstrates that it s her way or the highway Even Reichl s portrayals of other diners, who are merely innocent bystanders, are dreadfully stereotyped, sometimes to the point of cruelty She assumes that a loud, brassy blonde, who is disturbing her expensive meal, is a prostitute Apparently, sitting next to the masses isn t nearly as much fun as pretending to write for them Even Reichl s disguises lacked credibility Reichl s claims that she had an instant personality transformation with each new disguise are simply unbelievable She BECOMES the little people, taking on their imagined attributes, their voices, their very lives She comes up with histories for each of the women she invents, and, with just a wig and some makeup, is so amazingly convincing that she can even fool her husband Either Reichl is schizophrenic, or she takes method acting entirely too seriously She certainly takes herself too seriously.If the book had been well written I could have forgiven the snobbery, but, with the exception of one chapter, The Missionary of the Delicious, in which Reichl was somehow able to get a grip on herself, purple prose abounded As her editor I would have crossed out half of her adjectives The inclusion of reprints of her published reviews was redundant, and the recipes were mediocre There was no clue in these recipes that Reichl was an expert in the kitchen But, hey, she was writing for the huddled masses yearning to eat free What do we know We can t even dip sushi right If Reichl hadn t been so intent on wallowing in her ego, this book might have had possibilities She loves food, and she has dined in some truly fabulous restaurants The fact that most of us can t afford them is irrelevant She had a duty to go to these marvelous places, enjoy herself to the max, and then take the rest of us with her.


  5. says:

    This is a fun look at the life of a New York Times food critic When Ruth Reichl started the Times job in 1993, she was warned that a lot of restaurant owners in the city had already posted her picture, warning employees to be on the lookout for her Ruth decided to get help from a theater friend to come up with various disguises so she could dine anonymously Garlic and Sapphires is an enjoyable look at her years writing for the New York Times and of some of her memorable dining experiences during that time.This was the second Reichl book I ve read I had previously enjoyed My Kitchen Year and I was tempted to pick up this earlier work about her food critic years because Reichl will be visiting my town later this spring to promote her new book, and I wanted to read of her oeuvre before then I listened to Garlic and Sapphires on audio, and it was a pleasant narration by Bernadette Dunne Recommended for foodies.


  6. says:

    Prior to reading Garlic and Sapphires, I wouldn t have pegged myself as a fan of food writing I love to eat and enjoy talking about food, but I just wasn t sure I wanted to read about other people eating Well, I was wrong When I went to pick up this book from the library, my librarian told me that it s one of her all time favorites, and that she s constantly recommending it to patrons I started reading as soon as I got home from the library that day, and I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience Ruth Reichl tastes food in a way that is so beyond my own eating experiences She revels in every flavor and does a wonderful job describing the complexity of the many dishes she sampled during her tenure as restaurant critic for the New York Times I think the timing of picking this up was perfect for me, having just returned from a trip to France, where we had a lot of similar dining experiences to what Reichl describes in this book, with course after decadent course and sommeliers doling out advice for proper wine pairings It made me reflect on those experiences in a different way Beyond the food descriptions though, I found this book mostly fascinating because it s a job that is so unlike mine I m an elementary teacher , and it felt like I was reading about an entirely different world I wouldn t hesitate to pick up another book by Reichl in the future, and I d recommend this for anyone who is looking to pick up a light non fiction title.


  7. says:

    3.4 stars I enjoyed this book about Reichl s experience as a food critic for the New York Times I particularly liked reading about the transformative process she went through to become various characters when she visited restaurants This is not a memoir Reichl sticks to writing about restaurants After the half way point it does become repetitious Too much rich food.


  8. says:

    Ruth Reichl should be required reading for anyone writing a memoir She manages to shape plot and theme within her own life story I think part of the trick is that she carves her life into bite sized arcs, one journey per book It helps that she is witty, observant, and one hell of a food writer.This one is the story of her years at the New York Times, which happen to be the years after we no longer lived in the city but kept our subscription to the Times Reichl s reviews were great for that globally read paper her descriptions of restaurants and their food were evocative enough that it didn t matter if you knew you would never set foot in the place.Reichl quickly discovered that she needed disguises in order to visit the restaurants she was reviewing, since the royal treatment she got when she appeared as herself literally she was once seated while the King of Spain waited at the bar was clearly not the experience of the everyday diner Many of the chapters are named after specific disguises, each of which took on a personality of its own I ve also read the memoir of Frank Bruni, the other recent Times master of disguise That one was entertaining but not quite satisfying, and I couldn t put my finger on what it was missing This book has everything that one didn t, maybe because Reichl threw herself into her self made characters with such commitment Or maybe because Reichl is savvy enough to include her own reviews at the close of each chapter, so that the reader sees the finished product as well as the behind the scenes Or maybe because of the recipes interspersed between the chapters, which show the love of food behind everything else she does.


  9. says:

    Ruth Reichl is back, and this time she s the new restaurant critic for the New York Times Although the Times is famous for its all business no play reputation, leave it to Ruthie to take her job to the next leveland have fun doing it Garlic and Sapphires The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise chronicles Reichl s ten year stint with the Times, and her effort to bring good food to the masses In order to do that, she decides to create alter egos a la Mrs Doubtfire, to avoid red carpet treatment that would unduly influence her reviews I like the way Ruth thinks, and it s evident in the layout of her book Each chapter is dedicated to a character disguise, followed by her trips to the restaurant in question, and finally the review that was published, along with it s rating Some chapters even include Ruth s favorite recipes that tie into her life outside of work As Ruth soon discovers, being the NYT restaurant critic comes with a lot of perksand power Will she remain the down to earth culinary Robin Hood she started out as Or will her position turn her into a much feared food snob Quoting T.S Eliot, her husband warns, Garlic and sapphires in the mud What a fitting title for this chapter in Reichl s life If you love reading about the art of food, you will thoroughly enjoy this book She is extremely gifted at describing dishes, textures, aromas, and linking them to things you can relate to, even if you ve never tried them before For example, I always thought I was somewhat knowledable about sushi Apparently not Authentic sushi and sashimi employs the art of umami a perfect taste for a perfect moment, and that incorporates the four basic tastes sweet, salty, sour, bitter along with a savory taste A skilled Itamae chooses fresh, succulent fish, and is as focused on taste and texture, as in presentation It s also super expensive, ha ha At any rate, this makes the second book that I ve read by this author, and she is now an official favorite After finishing her book, I cooked up the dish below for a BBQ over the weekend Needless to say, it was a hit, just like she promised it d be Ruthie s Scalloped PotatoesIngredients1 clove garlic, cut in half1 Tbsp unsalted butter2 cups milk3 cups heavy creamSalt and Pepper4 pounds baking potatoes, peeledPreheat the oven to 325FRub a roasting pan with the garlic, and then coat thickly with the butter.Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan, and heat until just bout to boil Season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.Cut the potatoes into 1 4 inch thick rounds and arrange them in layers in the pan Pour the cream mixture over the potatoes it should come just to the top but not cover them Bake uncovered, pressing the potatoes into the milk every 30 minutes or so, for an hour and a half.Remove the pan from the oven when the potatoes are golden and allow to sit for 10 to 20 minutes before serving.


  10. says:

    Warning Reading this book will make you hungry and give you weird cravings for foie gras and asparagus and maybe caviar She just makes it sound so good This is an interesting and engaging look at one woman s experience as a food critic for the New York Times She talks about the food she ate, disguises she used, and lessons she learned along the way I found it funny, charming, and thought provoking I would go 5 stars except that it has taken me 3 tries to get through this one My first reaction to her writing style was that it was a tadoff, but I really think it is just her distinct style It will get in your head Now excuse me as I return to my cold frozen pizza and dream of brussels sprouts and perfect steak.


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Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise download Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, read online Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, kindle ebook Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise 83abfe4b5c4c Ruth Reichl, World Renowned Food Critic And Editor In Chief Of Gourmet Magazine, Knows A Thing Or Two About Food She Also Knows That As The Most Important Food Critic In The Country, You Need To Be Anonymous When Reviewing Some Of The Most High Profile Establishments In The Biggest Restaurant Town In The World A Charge She Took Very Seriously, Taking On The Guise Of A Series Of Eccentric Personalities In Garlic And Sapphires, Reichl Reveals The Comic Absurdity, Artifice, And Excellence To Be Found In The Sumptuously Appointed Stages Of The Epicurean World And Gives Us Along With Some Of Her Favorite Recipes And Reviews Her Remarkable Reflections On How One S Outer Appearance Can Influence One S Inner Character, Expectations, And Appetites, Not To Mention The Quality Of Service One Receives