Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Reading: Garlic and Sapphires

The book Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl was first recommended to me by my foodie friend Cynthia ( Ruth Reichl was once a food critic for LA Weekly and LA Times before she was wooed over to the New York Times. Ms. Reichl's tenure at the NY Times was the timeframe of the book's content.

Many out there may not sympathize with this particular cause but food critics have it hard. If not properly conducted in a discreet enough manner as to enjoy a meal completely unrecognized, a food critic can become overwhelmed with overtly friendly service, barraged with the finest dishes prepared with the kitchen's most quality ingredients and dare I say, even forced to eat for free. The only word I can think of for this kind of victimization is heinous. What about you? But all sarcasm aside, food criticism may not be the most important type of work but clearly, I love it.

It took me a while to decide whether and why I was compelled to finish this book. On one hand, I felt that Ms. Reichl took food writing a bit too seriously. Sure, I can understand her suggested issues of journalism politics. Especially at a paper as venerable NY Times, she a painted a picture of a somewhat conservative office culture and uptight editors. But when she wrote about picking low-key but quality ethnic restaurants to review as almost a form of advocacy for diversity (as compared to the bias towards traditional French-fare of the previous critic), I thought it a bit too righteous. Anyway, her stories revolve around her disguising herself in various costumes to avoid being recognized as the NYT food critic and also the personas she found herself taking on while incognito. The more she tries to be someone else, the more she realizes she is only accentuating a part of her she never knew about herself. (That sounded like a terrible movie promo but it's basically true).

Overall, the stories aren't nearly as cheesy as I made them sound and in fact, Ms. Reichl's description of food was so divine that I'm atttempted to ask if any real food can even taste as good as she made them sound. She would often write about the sensations of eating a certain dish with near odes of poetry and it's pretty clear that if food criticism can be considered a real career, she is a master of the art.

Rating: 9/10

PS. Dear reader(s), thank you for checking the blog! I apologize for my super slow frequency in posting but graduation is just around the corner and I will have nothing better to do in my life than write in this. Woohoo!

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