I had only the vaguest notion of who Ruth Reichl was when I walked into the Herbst Theater for Friday night’s City Arts and Lectures discussion, but came away hungry for more of her. She not only fascinated my foodie husband and I with her stories about being a food critic for the New York Times and Editor in Chief at Gourmet (did you know critics eat out six lunches and six dinners every week?! or that Gourmet magazine has eight test kitchens and employs chefs to do nothing but come up with recipes that are then tested and cross-tested dozens of times before they ever reach print?), but she really blew me away with a reading from her recent memoir, Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way. Her writing is witty and poignant, capturing the complexity of her relationship with her mother, especially deepened by discoveries of letters and journals she found after her mother’s death. It just moved up to the next book on my list to read, followed closely by her previous, more food-related memoirs, Tender at the Bone and Garlic and Sapphires.
Reichl is yet another inspiring person who pursued her passion in a way that paid off with a creative, fascinating feast of a life. She talked about how back in the days when she started, there was no genre of food writing, no celebrity chefs, and cooking was not as celebrated as it is today. It wasn’t even a dream on her radar to think, “I’m going to be a food writer when I grow up,” and yet she blazed her own path and made it happen. After the reading and interview, the discussion was opened up to questions from the audience, and a 12-year-old girl stood up and said, “I want to be a food writer when I grow up.” And everybody cheered.
To hear more from Ruth Reichl herself, listen to today’s Forum.
Also, if anyone was at the lecture, the little girl who stood up says she already started a food blog called “I’m Not A Picky Eater”, but I can’t find it. Please send a link if you see it.