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Writer Ruth Reichl Sees The World Food First

Aired 5/14/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUEST:

Ruth Reichl has spent her career tasting, talking and writing about food, most recently as editor and chief of Gourmet magazine. Her first novel is called, "Delicious."

Transcript

A novel about a young woman with an "extraordinary palate" who can taste even a trace of curry leaf in a bite of gnocchi is not something most people could write convincingly about. But when it's a novel by food writer Ruth Reichl you can be assured the author knows what she's talking about.

Ruth Reichl has spent her career tasting, talking and writing about food, most recently as editor and chief of the now defunct GOURMET magazine. She's written a trilogy of well-received memoirs.

Her first novel, Delicious!, seems like it would be largely autobiographical. The main character Billie Breslin is an aspiring food writer working for a great food magazine called “Delicious.” But Reichl said the Breslin's experience is in no way like her own.

“When I was 21 it would never have occurred to me that there was such a profession as food writer,” Reichl said.

She said she tried to invent a character that was as unlike herself as possible but there is at least one similarity.

“I am a person who sees the world food-first, so does Billie,” she said.

After publishing such successful memoirs, like “Tender at the Bone,” “Comfort me with Apples,” and “Garlic and Sapphires,” Reichl said she wanted to write a novel because she loves fiction.

“Fiction is the thing that has gotten me through a lot of tough times,” she said.

Reichle said someone suggested she already knew what it was like to be someone else and that her memoirs read like fiction.

“I thought, in ‘Garlic and Sapphires’ I write about all the disguises I put on to be a restaurant critic and she said to me, ‘you know that is in essence you creating fictions,’” Reichl said.

Reichl said her first experience with putting on a disguise was when she found out that some restaurants had photographs of her.

I thought, if they know who I am, I’ll be someone else,” she said. “I went in to Le Cirque -- it was one of my early reviews at the New York Times -- in disguise, and I was treated like dirt.”

She said when she went in as herself, the restaurant owner whisked her past a room full of people waiting to her table.

“And he said, the king of Spain is waiting in the bar but your table is ready,” said Reichl.

Reichl said she sees the role of restaurant critic not as someone who will tell readers what’s going to happen to them at a restaurant, not what will happen to someone who gets the red carpent rolled out.

Reichl, will be speaking and signing copies of her novel, “Delicious!” at The Chino Farm on Sunday, May 18th from 11 a.m.–1 p.m.

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