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Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Ruth Reichl

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2,4901173,533 (3.84)115
Member:sylviawrigley
Title:Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
Authors:Ruth Reichl
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2006), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
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Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl (2005)

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This is a rich book about much more than food! ( )
  LadyVivace | Jul 13, 2018 |
Imagine you had such a high-profile job that moving into a new town for it meant people all over that town would be on the lookout for your face. In addition, doing your job well required complete anonymity. What would you do?

Ruth Reichl had this very dilemma upon moving to New York for the job of restaurant critic. With restaurant owners, maitre d' s and waiters all on high alert for her presence, Ruth came up with various physical disguises in order to review restaurants incognito, ensuring that she would get the service the average Joe would receive.

Sounds like fun. Ruth found, however, that the elaborate disguises she donned took its own toll on her. She not only donned the clothing of other personas, but inhabited the characters she took on completely -- sometimes to her detriment. Becoming someone else has its own challenges, and sometimes Reichl had to face aspects of herself she did not find attractive.

This intriguing memoir looks at the life of a famous food critic in a big city and the drawbacks that that job had, and the toll it took on Reichl. Very fascinating, enjoyable read, with some added recipes. ( )
  ChayaLovesToRead | Jun 17, 2018 |
I read this book years ago, probably too many to remember. And boy was it eye opening, and amazing. The lengths [a:Ruth Reichl|5662|Ruth Reichl|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/authors/1398389266p2/5662.jpg] went to to review a restaurant. And the differences she found when she went incognito, with an elderly friend, with a young nephew, will make you question every restaurant experience from here on in.
Beautifully written. Frank and honest. A scary expose on how people are judged, a bit like how a book is judged by its cover.
Read it if you like reading restaurant reviews. Read it if you like reading about New York. Read it if you like eating out. Read it if you like great books. I loved it. ( )
  Kiwimrsmac | Nov 29, 2017 |
Garlic and Sapphires spans Reichl's tenure as the restaurant critic of the New York Times, with an introductory section on how she overcame her reluctance to accept the job (she was living with her family in L.A. at the time), and a final phone call in which she accepts a meeting to be considered as the editor for Gourmet magazine (which she accepted).

In between, she acclimates (somewhat) to the NYT organizational culture, and invents various disguises so she can be treated as an ordinary customer at the restaurants she reviews; it's important to Reichl that she tell her readers what kind of experience and food they can expect, and if she's recognized as the NYT restaurant critic, restaurant staff will improve her service. Reichl invents personalities to go with each physical disguise: she becomes her mother, Miriam; her best self, carefree Brenda; her worst self, cold, rude, critical Emily; and others as well.

The reviews, as they ran in her column at the time, appear throughout the book, as do occasional recipes; I'm planning to try Nicky's Vanilla Cake.

Mouthwatering, tantalizing, awkward, sad (Carol Shaw, a fellow NYT employee and friend, died of ovarian cancer in 1998), and satisfying, Garlic and Sapphires was an enjoyable peek into the world of fancy (and not so fancy) restaurants, and a period in the life of Ruth Reichl. ( )
  JennyArch | Oct 27, 2017 |
Marvelous, wonderful recounting of Ruth's time as a restaurant critic for the NYTimes. A fantastic read, it's not just about food and disguises, but what she learned about herself along the way, and the people she met... really really fun read. I'd stay up till 2am to finish a chapter, it was so good! ( )
  camelama | Dec 30, 2016 |
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For my family, all of you, with many thanks and much love.
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"You gonna eat that?" The woman is eyeing the tray the flight attendant has just set before me.
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The waiting room looked like a graveyard for rejected flower arrangements.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143036610, Paperback)

Fans of Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples know that Ruth Reichl is a wonderful memoirist--a funny, poignant, and candid storyteller whose books contain a happy mix of memories, recipes, and personal revelations. Amazon.com Interview
We chewed the fat with Ruth. Read our interview. What they might not fully appreciate is that Reichl is an absolute marvel when it comes to writing about food--she can describe a dish in such satisfying detail that it becomes unnecessary for readers to eat. In her third memoir, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, Reichl focuses on her life as a food critic, dishing up a feast of fabulous meals enjoyed during her tenure at The New York Times. As a critic, Reichl was determined to review the "true" nature of each restaurant she visited, so she often dined incognito--each chapter of her book highlights a new disguise, a different restaurant (including the original reviews from the Times), and a fresh culinary adventure. Garlic and Sapphires is another delicious and delightful book, sure to satisfy Reichl's foodie fans and leave admirerers looking forward to her next book, hopefully about her life with Gourmet. --Daphne Durham

More from Ruth Reichl
Tender at the Bone
Comfort Me with Apples
The Gourmet Cookbook
Remembrance of Things Paris
Endless Feasts
Gourmet magazine


Amazon.com's The Significant Seven
Ruth Reichl answers the seven questions we ask every author.


Q: What book has had the most significant impact on your life?
A: Kate Simon’s New York Places and Pleasures. I read it as a little girl and then went out and wandered the city. She was a wonderful writer, and she taught me not only to see New York in a whole new way, but to look, and taste, beneath the surface.

Q: You are stranded on a desert island with only one book, one CD, and one DVD--what are they?
A: Ulysses by James Joyce. What better place to finally get through it?

Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert. If you’re going to listen to one piece over and over, this is one that doesn’t get tiresome.

How to Build a Boat in Five Easy Steps. Since I’m going to be watching one movie over and over, it might as well be useful.

Q: What is the worst lie you've ever told?
A: I’m such a good liar, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Q: Describe the perfect writing environment.
A: I can write pretty much anywhere. But I prefer small, cozy spaces, with a good view over a lake or a forest, and room for the cats to curl up.

Q: If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say?
A: "She’ll be right back."

Q: Who is the one person living or dead that you would like to have dinner with?
A: Elizabeth I. She fascinates me. She had a great mind, enormous appetites--and she was a survivor. The most interesting woman of an interesting time, and I have a million questions I’d like to ask her.

Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: You mean after creating world peace? This is a hard one. But I’ve always wanted to be able to fly.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:17 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Garlic and Sapphires is Ruth Reichl's account of her experience undercover in her position as food critic for The New York Times. She throws back the curtain on the sumptuously appointed stages of the epicurean world to reveal the comic absurdity, artifice and excellence there, giving us (along with some of her favorite recipes and reviews) her remarkable reflections on role playing and identity.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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