Eatdrink #80 November/December 2019 - The Holiday Issue

eatdrinkmagazine

The LOCAL food and drink magazine serving London, Stratford & Southwestern Ontario since 2007

56 | November/December 2019

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Books

A Gourmet Life

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

by Ruth Reichl

Review by DARIN COOK

Iwas working on the frontlines in a

bookstore when in 2009 Gourmet

magazine had its last stand. I had

been searching for the latest issue,

for a customer, when the staff member who

stocked the magazines informed me that

Gourmet was defunct — one month here,

the next month not. I was surprised that an

established magazine with staunch readership

could fold simply because the internet had

become a major player as a publishing option.

A decade after that demise Ruth Reichl, the

editor at the time, has published Save Me the

Plums: My Gourmet Memoir (Random House,

2019). It recounts her rise to fame in the

magazine world, even as Gourmet was on the

brink of its fall.

There are perhaps only a handful of

people who have had more of an impact

on culinary writing than Reichl; the upper

ranks managing high-end magazines under

the Condé Nast umbrella were well aware of

her literary reputation when they offered

her the editor-in-chief position at the

prestigious epicurean magazine. Reichl had

adored Gourmet as a

child and credits her

love of food, in part,

to early editions she

had thumbed through

in used-book stores in

her youth. When she

became a writer she

desperately wanted to be

a contributor. Although

she never did — it

became too prissy and

stodgy for her — she

somehow found herself

being asked to take

charge of it at a time

when it was

in need of

revitalization.

Reichl would

be coming

off her sixyear

stint

as The New

York Times

restaurant

critic,

and she

justifies

the change in

profession by recognizing the time

it would give her to have dinner with her

husband and so — time she had lost eating

at restaurants alone all those years. Adding

the perks of a clothing allowance and an office

with a private bathroom made it a hard offer

to pass up.

Save Me the Plums provides glimpses into

her personal life, like those more-frequent,

home-cooked meals that her son delighted

in, but it mainly focuses on her professional

relationships with

publishers, editors,

artists, writers,

photographers, test

kitchen cooks, and

marketers, while at the

helm of Gourmet. The

history of what went

on during her tenure is

directly linked to how

the corporate bigwigs

moved staff around

or let them go in a

flurry, forcing Reichl to

Author Ruth Reichl

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