Ruth Reichl

A longtime food critic for The New York Times and former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, Ruth Reichl has just released her debut novel. But Reichl is navigating familiar territory. In “Delicious,” a food writer discovers a stash of World War II-era letters between a 12-year-old girl and the legendary chef James Beard. Reichl joins us to discuss her post-Gourmet career and her foray into fiction.

Ruth Reichl, former restaurant critic for The New York Times, former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and author of books including "Delicious" and "Not Becoming My Mother"

  • There are very few authors with whom I’m unable to maintain at least a degree of objectivity; Ruth Reichl is certainly one of them. Her memoirs are my absolute favorite depictions of a well-lived life as a lover of both good food, and eating well. I’m especially fond of her very theatrical stories of life as the NY Times’ reviewer.

    But I must admit that I’m still hot under the collar about Gourmet’s folding; under Reichl, that magazine reached its absolute pinnacle of excellence in food journalism, and there simply has not been any competing publication that stepped up to fill that gap. The publishing world has become increasingly, and tediously, prey to the bean-counter mentality; whatever happened to the idea of keeping a legendary publication around simply because it’s become a valuable part of our culture? We’ve lost one of the all-time greats with Gourmet, and its fine Editor-in-Chief.

  • Nancy Harmon

    Maybe I missed this before getting in the car but could you ask her to talk about all the crazy trendy things like foams & deconstructed beef sinews & non – traditional cooking methods – even things like chopped up insects? Is a lot of this because the chefs are bored? Thanks!

  • ES Trader

    Foodies always talk about eating meals of animal protein w/out regard to the animal that perished to provide that moment of gastronomical pleasure as a right of living. What about the rights of the former living animal?

    Reminds me of an old Rod Serling episode of “Twilight Zone”, “To Serve Man”

    • Another Mike

      Hunting makes you appreciate keenly the sacrifice of the animal who gives up his life to sustain yours.

      • ES Trader

        Right, a high powered rifle vs teeth, claws, and horns makes it a real fair fight but I forgot its not about fairness, just the human right to kill and eat right?

        • Another Mike

          Human beings used their brains and hands to get to the top of the food chain — with the help of their millenia-old companion, the dog.

          • ES Trader

            and how does that give them the right to end the life of any non human life without penalty

          • Another Mike

            If it’s more moral for a deer to die from cancer, or to starve to death one winter, or to be killed and eaten by a mountain lion or coyotes, it’s not really obvious to me.

          • ES Trader

            Natural predators were killed off by hunters and destruction of habitat by human encroachment; but assuming you are simply being a humanitarian, why not apply the same logic for people with terminal illness or homelessness

            It’s always EZ to rationalize ones behavior

  • Caroline Bledsoe

    In Northern California Slow Food Yolo is bringing young farmers and young chefs together….inviting people to tour small farms and eat local food prepared by young chefs. I like this….maybe the young will get eating more in sync with what we can sustainably grow!

  • Irene Seales

    Thank you Ruth and Michael for making time to have this nuanced conversation of length, covering much of the big kitchen! Some of the Gourmet issues we have kept years and years on helped shape our travels into most wonderful experiences. love your voice, in person as well as print. Your enthusiasm and kindness are so engaging in helping people have a reasonable involvement in how they eat and how that food is created.

  • Pete

    Speaking of foraging and gingerbread, have you tried the latter with whipped cream infused with dried candy cap mushrooms?

    Simply mix a heaping teaspoon of powdered candy caps (toss 6-8 in a spice grinder) into a pint of heavy whipping cream. Leave it in the fridge overnight and whip in the usual manner, sweetening with a little maple syrup instead of sugar.

  • Cindy

    Since she was a powerful woman there, would Ruth comment on the ouster of Jill Abramson at the New York Times, and the environment for developing female leaders in fields such as food criticism?

  • M Francis

    I find it interesting that when Reichl was asked how she felt about animal rights, she deflected the question by saying that she found it sad that some people are more concerned with animal rights that human rights. That’s a pretty presumptuous and speciesist point of view in my opinion. A veggie/animal rights person can support the end of exploitation of both animals AND humans. I think the real issue with Reichl in regards to this question was having to defend her views on eating meat. A meat eater is not a considered a “meat eater” until a vegan enters the room. I guess it’s easier not to think about all aspects of how our food gets on our plate in favor of personal food choices. Perhaps she needs to read David Foster Wallace’s article, “Consider The Lobster.” It was in Gourmet Magazine…so……..maybe it’s time to think about it!

    • Another Mike

      Consider that David Foster Wallace’s exit from the world was not notably pain-free.

      • ES Trader

        I shot an arrow toward the sky,

        It hit a white cloud floating by,

        The cloud fell dying to the shore,

        I don’t shoot arrows anymore.

        Shel Silverstein

    • ES Trader

      Glad you picked up on her deflection also, wish Michael would have read the last line if my comment about “Serving Humans”; her comment sounded practiced. I’m sure she is a wonderful person but the comment about the suckling pig ravioli just makes me wonder how insensitive and selfish foodies are with animals that live a short miserable existence then slaughtered regardless of the merhod.

  • OldVet

    Ruth said milkweed was OK to eat. I can just say that it made me sick. And there are many kinds of it…. botanical name : Asclepias . It did not make me real sick for long, though. I just vomited like a cannon and that was that.

    I recommend not serving it at a white tie affair.

    Otherwise, great discussion. Great soul. It is worthy to discuss the food system as global warming and population impinge. Enjoy your food and keep family farmers on their land. Many farmers trying their luck as the weather changes makes for a better chance that we each will get some food.

    Good food need not be effete. Just invite yourself to dine with a French peasant farmer.
    Ah! That onion tart!

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