Mar 2007

Comfort Me With Apples – Ruth Reichl

About: In this follow-up to the excellent memoir Tender at the Bone, Reichl 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.

My thoughts: Unlike Reichl’s other books, food takes the backseat in Comfort Me With Apples. I found myself more interested in her life than her eating adventures–although the two are always intimately intertwined. Reichl truly is endlessly fascinating and I feel a little empty now that I’ve exhausted her library.

The unpredictability of life is explored in the Reichl trilogy (Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, Garlic and Sapphires). As an archetypical Type A personality without a defined path for the future, I admire Reichl’s ability to go wherever life takes her. I hope to do the same.

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