New York Times
restaurant critic Ruth Reichl shares lessons learned at the hands (and kitchen counters) of family members and friends throughout her life, from growing up with her taste-blind mother to the comfort of cream puffs while away at boarding school on "Mars" (Montreal seemed just as far away) to her most memorable meal, taken on a mountainside in Greece.
Her stories shine with the voices and recipes of those she has encountered on the way, such as her Aunt Birdie's maid and companion, Alice, who first taught Reichl both the power of cooking and how to make perfect apple dumplings; the family's mysterious patrician housekeeper, Mrs. Peavey, who always remembered to make extra pastry for the beef Wellington; Serafina, the college roommate with whom Reichl explored a time of protest and political and personal discovery; and, finally, cookbook author Marion Cunningham, who, after tales of her midlife struggles and transformation, gave Reichl the strength to overcome her own anxieties.
Reichl's wry and gentle humour pervades the book, and makes readers feel as if they're right at the table, laughing at one great story after another (and delighting in a gourmet meal at the same time, of course). Reichl's narrative of a life lived and remembered through the palate will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Storytelling, in my family, was highly prized. While my father walked home from work he rearranged the events of his day to make them more entertaining, and my mother could make a trip to the supermarket sound like an adventure. If this required minor adjustments of fact, nobody much minded: it was certainly preferable to boring your audience.
The good stories, of course, were repeated endlessly until they took on a life of their own. One of these stories I grew up on was a family legend about myself. Its point was to demonstrate my extraordinary maturity, even at the age of two. This is how my father told it:
One Sunday in early fall we were sitting in our house in the country admiring the leaves outside the picture window. Suddenly the telephone rang: it was Miriams mother in Cleveland, saying that her father was gravely ill. She had to go immediately leaving me alone with Ruthie, who was to start nursery school the next day.
I, of course, had to be in the office Monday morning. Worse, I had an appointment I could not cancel; I simply had to catch the 7:07 to New York. But the school didnt open until eight, and although I phoned and phoned, I was unable to reach any of the teachers. I just didnt know what to do.
In the end, I did the only thing I could think of. At seven I took Ruthie to the school, sat her on a swing outside and told her to tell the teachers when they came that she was Ruthie Reichl and she had come to go to school. She sat there, waving bravely as I drove off. I knew shed be fine; even then she was very responsible. He always ended up smiling proudly in my direction.
Nobody ever challenged this story. I certainly didnt. I was not until I had a child of my own that I realised that nobody, not even my father, would leave a two-year-old alone on a swing in a strange place for an hour. Did he exaggerate my age? The length of time? Both? By then my father was no longer available for questions, but I am sure that if he had been he would have insisted that the story was true. For him it was.
This book is absolutely in the family tradition. Everything here is true, but it may not be entirely factual. In some cases I have compressed events; in others I have made two people into one. I have occasionally embroidered.
I learned early that the most important thing in life is a good story.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.