Let it be known: I like food. Much.
I also love reading.
So maybe this post makes sense, somehow?
First, the review.
Ruth Reichl’s “Garlic and Sapphires” is the book making me all sleepy-eyed and coffee-cravin’ in the morning right now. I was all gonna make this a classy review, but I’d rather be honest than try to fool you. I’ve only ever written one book review (years ago, and probably poorly) so I’m just going to follow Sarah’s example, and use Goodreads’ blurb, my own thoughts, and what the writer in me learned.
Goodreads: 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.
My thoughts: Each character Reichl discovered makes me wonder what other people might be hidden inside of me. I’ve made acquaintance of a few, I think. I like them. But what else could I be with my next haircut, job, project, trip? Might more people be like this with characters in onion layers or rainbow stripes? It’s an interesting concept. At the same time, it’s interesting to see Reichl underneath each one, just trying characters on for taste. I notice that often, after she finds a disguise that emphasizes one extreme of her character, she defaults to to some antithical trait. For example, after dressing and acting as her mom (who sent almost every dish back as unsatisfactory), she discovered Brenda, who saw everything in rose-colored glasses and who brought out the best in anyone she met.
Also, Reichl makes food interesting. I have always like eating, but Reichl makes fuelling oneself into a panorama delight of texture, color, taste and even fellowship. It seems lovely. Perhaps that was meals were really meant for. Of course not all lunches are feasts, but might food and company be more pleasant than boiling another batch of potatoes?
As a writer: It’s a fabulous and important concept to be different in writing. I’ve always striven for a different style. Something poignant and unique and lovely and varied. Reichl is not. She writes bluntly about the facts and descriptively about the important details. The difference is that the story she tells is different. Obviously, people who do not write well won’t get hired for the new York times. That said, I don’t particularly like Reichl’s writing style. However, she takes a story (that anyone could chalk up as “just life”) and tells it like the odd, sweet, crooked, colorful story that it is. I take it as a reminder that each charming little life is that – a story. A palette. A set of words, just waiting to be put in order and written down.
Now for those that love food like I do.
Here is a recipe that seemed to me like something Reichl would have liked.
Spicy Thai Noodles
Recipe credit doesn’t actually to go Reichl – I found this recipe on pinterest and traced it to LeAnna. (Sorta kinda imitated her photo. It was lovely, what can I say?)
Combine 1 tsp. crushed (or ground) red pepper with 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1/2 cup sesame oil. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, and then strain the pepper out of the oil – save the oil! (I used ground red pepper, and put a coffee filter in my colander to strain it.)
Whisk 6 tbs of honey and 6 tbs of soy sauce into the oil. Now, this will separate a little as soon as you stop whisking. The point is to get the honey thoroughly mixed in, and then before you combine it with the noodles, whisk it up a bit.
Boil and drain a package of angel hair or thin spaghetti.
Poor the oil mixture over the noodles and toss it together.
Chop: 1/2 cup green onions. 1/2 cup cilantro. 3/4 cups peanuts.
Shred: two peeled carrots.
Toss these last four ingredients in with the pasta, and enjoy!
My family loved this dish, but the noodles did get a little hot. I may have simmered the red pepper too long, however. Make sure it’s only 2 minutes, or use less if it’s too much for you.
So. Got any favorite ethnic recipes, or books?