For ten years Ruth Reichl helmed Gourmet magazine, turning the tired and worn publication back into the cultural achievement it once was. However, she initially balked at the idea of taking control. In 1999 she was the food critic for The New York Times— a writer first and last, she certainly had no interest in managing a staff of sixty. But Gourmet was a magazine that sparked her culinary career when she discovered it at eight years old … How could she resist? The next ten years became a whirlwind of learning how to head a magazine, navigating publishing egos, and, above all else, dishing out great food.
In Save Me the Plums, the best of these stories are on display. Reichl works linearly, showcasing her trepidation at taking control of a massive publication with minimal managerial experience. She’s obviously anxious, something that’s palpable on the page all these years later. It’s a testament to her writing. She’s frank, candid, and brutally honest about her successes and failures. This is particularly effective as she gains confidence and is forced into working situations with so many high profile names and even larger personalities. For some, this would come off like name dropping. For Reichl, it’s just her exploring the wonder and absurdity that was her life working for a Condé Nast publication.
In the opening section of the book, Reichl makes mention that those reading this book probably have some connection to Gourmet. This almost does a disservice to her writing. Sure, those with a familiar with the magazine will have a special reaction to her discussing the test kitchens or working on specific covers and features. However, Reichl’s work is almost like poetry— lyrical with no words wasted. Behind all the hullabaloo of office life, it’s really about the basics of food, and her careful prose make any readers hungry for more.
Reichl’s ability to weave a memoir into an examination of food and a changing industry is unparalleled. Funny, thoughtful, and enlightening— this book cannot be recommended enough.
Title: Save Me the Plums
Author: Ruth Reichl
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: April 02, 2019
Classification: Food, Memoir, Nonfiction
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.