What is even more remarkable about Reichl's spy games is that as she takes on these various disguises, she finds herself changed not just superficially, but in character as well. She gives a remarkable account of how one's outer appearance can very much influence one's inner character, expectations, and appetites.
As she writes, "Every restaurant is a theater...even the modest restaurants offer the opportunity to become someone else, at least for a little while." Garlic and Sapphires is a reflection on personal identity and role playing in the decadent, epicurean theaters of the restaurant world.
©2005 Ruth Reichl; (P)2005 Books on Tape, Inc.
"[A] vivacious, fascinating memoir." (Publishers Weekly)
I had been really looking forward to reading this book, having read the author's columns for several years in the Los Angeles Times. However, although the premise of the story was amusing (restaurant reviewer forced to wear a variety of disguises), I found it repetitive after a while (how much foi gras and lobster can anyone eat?). Only moderately entertaining.
Reichl describes her life and the decisions that lead her to the job as restaurant critic at the New York Times; she doesn't shy away from her own insecurities, her anxiety as she waits for the response to her first review, her naivete in the face of the cut-throat world of both the New York dining establishments and the New York Times editorial mean-spiritedness and back-biting. Before even embarking on her first assignment for the paper, she discovers that her picture and personal information have been disseminated, and a reward offered to any restaurant worker who can spot her (presumably so that she can be lavished with attention and the finest of the fine food). Dismayed, she hatches the idea to go in disguise and begins a game of "fool 'em all" that last five years.
Interesting as her experiences in the restaurants themselves are, there is more to the book that I found equally pleasing. Her husband and son, her friend Carol, the other people who are in on the game and participate in her charade by dining with "Brenda" or "Miriam", and those who she dupes (sometimes rather unkindly) are all compelling characters. Many of them don't shy from bursting her bubble by finding some of her "costumes" attractive (moreso than her own persona) or repugnant (as she realizes she was more into playing the role than was necessary). The writing seems genuine, as Reichl wavers, struggles, comes to understand just how much of herself (good and bad) comes to the surface with each disguise. I got goosebumps when she described her trip to Windows on the World, the name of which I only knew because of its destruction with the rest of the World Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks. In addition to all the glorious food, the catty commentary, and the gossipy insider view of the New York Times Food Section, Reichl also weaves the reader through the New York of her childhood and references but doesn't ghoulishly dwell on the events that loom in New York's (then) future.
This book reads (listens?) like one of those great NYC comic novels. I was not surprised when I realized that the narrator had also done The Devil Wears Prada. That Ruth Reichl is a professional writer is obvious from start to finish. Love it, love it, love it.
This book grabbed me, waltzed me around the floor and then deposited me dizzy and hungry in a chair next to banquet! You have a great reader who takes you along on a ride that answers the question, "What would it be like to be the NYTimes Restaurant Reviewer?" The getups that Ruth devised to go unnoticed or at least unrecognized had me howling and I found that I had visualized the friends that she brought along to complete her story. I loved when her son learned to make hash browns or cakes, I hated the previous critic for his actions and I rode shotgun when she went on a food tour of New York. I could even understand as she starts to question her place on the (forgive me) food chain. I have enjoyed Ruth's other books, but this one really lightened up my life a little and I think that I started to eat a little better too, because who can have a bag of micro popcorn after hearing her description of a dinner at a four-star restaurant!
This is my favorite audible book so far. Ruth Reichl's descriptions of everything around her, and not just food, is a treat to listen to. The narrator, Bernadette Dunne, inhabits the charecter so well, that I had to look back to make sure that it wasn't the author reading her own book.
I picked this book because I really loved the Narrator. She did such a great job with Devil Wears Prada and she was WONDERFUL in this.
I enjoyed hearing the author's dining experiences. I also liked how she explained the food and gave you some really good recipes too.
Ruth leads us on a culinary exploration of the New York dining scene. I enjoyed learning the back room tricks of the resturants and the devious tactics Ruth used to get around it, her contemplations on your public personna and above all the food descriptions. From dumplings to duck the book was fun and fascinating. She can both distinguish flavors and describe them. This was a book I looked forward to having a chance to drive in the car to be able to listen to (but not one I sat in the driveway to finish off.)Nice to have the author as narrator - it was clear and very personal.
could have done without some of the detailed discussions of the food and the recipes - I now its a book about food but... but I found it very entertaining. Liked the narrator
food, food and more food
the food descriptions
The food critic
this was a very easy and fun listen. The narrator was great. Very enjoyable.
Ms. Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires was deliciously interesting and fun to read. I enjoyed every bite of it. Long before I read her book,I ate in some of the restaurants she reviewed. I found her critiques to be on target. I wish she had written about more restaurants that she reviewed. Her own recipes sounded pretty good, too.
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