"Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir" By Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl has enchanted us with tastes of her life portioned out through several delicious memoirs: the unconventional childhood in New York, time in the boho season of Berkeley, almost 20 years as a restaurant critic, the tremendously successful remake of The Los Angeles Times food section. Now, 20 years after its 1999 closing, she reveals her feast-to-famine, decade-long tenure as editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine.

Gourmet had, Reichl thought, become quite stodgy. “Your magazine is printing recipes for people who have cooks,” she informed Conde Nast owner Si Newhouse. But wooed by flattery and assurances of unlimited budgets and managerial personnel, Reichl came on board.

This was the golden age of publishing. Prescient of the movement in food journalism to address serious issues, Reichl set the magazine on a trajectory toward the future. There are big successes and the stories she shares about those days are rich and satisfying.

Then the economy takes a turn. “I was like a frog in a kettle of water and this was the moment they lit the fire, turning it up so gradually I had no suspicion that Gourmet would soon be cooked,” she writes. “If you’d told me that the end was near, I wouldn’t have believed you. Halcyon times still lay ahead, but even later, when the pot was being stirred, I never really felt how hot the water had become.”

Chef, author and editor, Ruth Reichl has never left us hungry. Let’s hope this isn’t the last course.

Random House. $27

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