Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table Paperback – Apr 9 2002
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Ruth Reichl's first book, the autobiographical Tender at the Bone, disarmed readers with its droll candor. The former restaurant critic of The New York Times and editor in chief of Gourmet magazine told great stories about growing up and loving food. Comfort Me with Apples begins where the first book ended, tracing Reichl's evolution from chef to food writer while detailing the dissolution of her first marriage, the start of a second, and motherhood at the age of 40. The book also limns a sensual journey, Reichl's awakening to the pleasures of sex as well as food, and also to love. Reichl interweaves her diverse coming-of-age narratives with passion (especially on the subject of food), wit, and a no-nonsense grace, all of which add up to a wonderful read--entertaining, but moving, too.
The story begins when Reichl, living in a '70s Berkeley commune, gets her first real job as a restaurant reviewer. Despite the incredulity of her in-the-movement roommates ("You're going to spend your life telling spoiled, rich people where to eat?" asks one), Reichl persists, traveling widely to polish her palate. In the doing she meets food luminaries such as Wolfgang Puck (a mad encounter in a produce market), M.F.K. Fisher (lunch and sweet reminiscences), and Alice Waters (a garlic feast), among others. Her trip to China, which includes clandestine dealings with a former chef, is particularly well handled. The ungluing of her first marriage is depicted in adroit emotional counterpoint to her soaring career, as is her discovery of love with her second husband, unspooled against her father's death. Reichl also provides recipes, such as Fall Mushroom Soup (made to comfort herself and her mother) that, unexpectedly and delightfully, deepen the narrative. --Arthur Boehm --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
In this follow-up to the excellent memoir Tender at the Bone, Reichl (editor-in-chief at Gourmet) displays a sure hand, an open heart and a highly developed palate. As one might expect of a celebrated food writer, Reichl maps her past with delicacies: her introduction to a Dacquoise by a lover on a trip to Paris; the Dry-Fried Shrimp she learned to make on a trip to China, every moment of which was shared with her adventurous father, ill back home, in letters; the Apricot Pie she made for her first husband as their bittersweet marriage slowly crumbled; the Big Chocolate Cake she made for the man who would become her second, on his birthday. Recipes are included, but the text is far from fluffy food writing. Never shying from difficult subjects, Reichl grapples masterfully with the difficulty of ending her first marriage to a man she still loved, but from whom she had grown distant. Perhaps the most beautifully written passages here are those describing Reichl and her second husband's adoption and then loss of a baby whose biological mother handed over her daughter, then recanted before the adoption was final. This is no rueful read, however. Reichl is funny when describing how the members of her Berkeley commune reacted to the news that she was going to become a restaurant reviewer ("You're going to spend your life telling spoiled, rich people where to eat too much obscene food?"), and funnier still when pointing out the pompousness of fellow food insiders. Like a good meal, this has a bit of everything, and all its parts work together to satisfy. (on sale Apr. 10) Forecast: Even more appetizing than Tender at the Bone, this volume is bound to visit bestseller lists.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
However, I had to hand it to her when she finally decides to stop being manipulated by her mother. That description, short as it was, was priceless. No more pussycat, for her!
Though she's well-known for writing about food, Ruth Reichl is just as adept at writing about the self, particularly when the self is caught in unfamiliar, transitional phases.
In the beginning of Comfort Me With Apples, Reichl finds herself embroiled in one extramarital affair after the other. The breakdown of her marriage is sketched for the reader, rather than drawn out in excruciating detail, but that sketch is evocative and, indeed, excruciating anyway. It's very clear to the reader what Reichl is giving up, and how hard it is for her to make the decision to give it up.
Also palpable, though never stated outright, is her bemusement at being swept into the L.A. food world of celebrity chefs and movie stars. Perhaps that feeling comes from having read Tender At the Bone.
The part of Comfort Me With Apples that will stay with me the longest is the part about Reichl's adopted daughter, Gavi. I can't imagine withstanding a loss like that. Indeed, I had no idea there was any such thing in Reichl's life. She tells the story of her daughter with the awe-inspiring level of self-knowledge that seems to be a characteristic of her memoirs.
Ruth Reichl knows food, but Ruth Reichl also knows herself -- every strength and weakness, every grace and meanness -- and she's not afraid to show us each aspect of her personality.
Make no mistake about it. The writing in this volume is as good as the narrative in the first, and probably a lot more interesting to the average adult reader.
My favorite story in this book is the episode where Ms. Reichl and a number of colleagues are treated to a cooking demonstration by Danny Kaye who had a first class kitchen in his house arranged specifically to enhance the ability of observers to see the ebullient Mr. Kaye demonstrate unvarnished culinary genius. This is the first I heard of Danny Kaye's culinary skills, but several other reporters have confirmed them since I read this story. Reichl's recipe she developed from memory even appeared in a volume of the 'Best American Recipes' series. I have been looking for more details of this aspect of Danny Kaye's talent ever since. Unfortunately his biographies have virtually nothing on the matter.
The saddest event in the book is the telling of Ms. Reichl's visit to China at the time her father was very ill. He insisted Ruth make the trip in spite of his perilous condition, and he died while she was deep in mainland China, well away from easy contact with her family.Read more ›
Ruth Reichl's life is as much about people as it is about the foods that they shared together. Her travels around the world seeking adventure in culinary delights makes for fascinating reading. Her sensuous journey into the exotic world of food took her from China to France and from California to New York. The book is filed with anecdotes about famous chefs including a movie star who was also a terrific cook.
She was quite open about her failing marriage and her various love affairs. Although it was captivating to read about, Reichl seemed to be a woman who was, at times, emotionally out of control. While reading the book, I'd often catch myself thinking, "Oh, no, Ruth don't get mixed up with that guy."
Yes, Ruth included quite a few recipes. My favorite was the one for mushroom soup.
Most recent customer reviews
Loved it all, recipes history and pictures at the end,
Good humour, balance between laughs and sadness.
I really enjoyed the read.
I was SO disappointed-- this woman, for all her publishing credits, does not write well about food! All those descriptions of how cheese and foie gras "explode" in her... Read morePublished on July 13 2004
This book is beautifully written. The honesty with which Reichl shares the joys and pains of her early professional career, and her ongoing exploration of food and of herself,... Read morePublished on July 7 2004
Tender at the Bone was a good book. Comfort Me with Apples was not. I finished Bone wanting more, and finished Apples wishing I'd stopped after one course.Published on July 6 2004
Worth reading, if just barely, for the dishy (pun intended) anecdotes about Wolfgang Puck, Danny Kaye, and Other Celebrity Chefs I Have Known. Read morePublished on June 2 2004
The witty writing drew me in immediately. I laughed aloud at her tales of work and life in Berkeley. Read morePublished on April 25 2004
I read Tender at the Bone, another 5* read, and this one. I have two things to say about both of these books: 1) Extremely pleasurable reading; and 2) I feel a little lost and sad... Read morePublished on April 19 2004