Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise


Garlic and Sapphires:  The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

I first listened to this book on CD many years ago.  I only recently picked up the book to read again and loved it as much as I did listening to it the first time.  This memoir follows Ruth Reichl from 1993 through 1999 while she was the restaurant critic for The New York Times.   Well-known, and recognizable, Reichl realizes even before she officially starts her job that she’s going to need to disguise herself while dining out.  Through this book we meet several of her different personas including Molly, Miriam, Chloe and Brenda among others.  Reichl discovers that when dressed in “character” she actually becomes a different person, from her behavior and mannerisms, to her speech.  I found it fascinating to get an inside peek at the life of a restaurant critic.  I’ve always said that a restaurant critic is my “dream job.”  However, reading this makes me see that it isn’t always that glamorous.  We see that recognized restaurant critics get preferential treatment over the everyday diner.   Reichl has had to eat many less than stellar meals and sometimes experience horrible service when disguised.  She would dine at restaurants like Le Cirque five times before writing a review.   She isn’t a food snob though and enjoyed little hole-in-the-wall restaurants as much as the fancy ones.   I also realized that restaurant critic isn’t such a great job for a mother, when Reichl’s young son wishes his mommy could eat dinner at home with him every night.   This book is not focused much on cooking but you will get some of Reichl’s recipes and amazing descriptions of foods that she’s eaten in the many restaurants that she’s reviewed.

*I borrowed this book from the library.