In 2003 I went to an author lunch with a friend of mine. We went to a French restaurant on Lake Michigan and indulged in some truly delicious and memorable food. The author we saw was Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet magazine. She was on a book tour promoting Gourmet magazine’s first cookbook. With the guidance of my dear friend Amy, I had only recently discovered that I appreciated foods that went beyond my midwestern roots. While I love a good casserole, I realized I also love salad with baked goat cheese, a perfectly roasted chicken or mushroom risotto. The world of food had been introduced to me.
Save Me the Plums, written by Ruth Reichl, tells the story of her years at Gourmet magazine as editor. It follows other books she has written, my favorite being Tender at the Bone. I highly recommend that one, the stories she tells about her mother are laugh out loud hilarious. Save Me the Plums gives the backstory to how she fell into such a great job, the politics of running a magazine, the personalities of the people she worked with and the ultimate dismantling of Gourmet magazine. I enjoyed the book, but it was not great, it had some flaws.
I found it hard to keep track of all the people. I understand that when you run a magazine, it is a team effort. But, there were just too many personalities to keep track of. I don’t know how she could have revised that aspect, but it was hard to follow. I also felt like she jumped over huge periods of time without a lot of detail. She goes from complaining about slumping sales, to bragging about robust sales very quickly without a lot of explanation as to why. That happened quite a few times throughout the book. It made it hard to follow. I was also disappointed in the ending. She devoted very little to explaining how and why the magazine came to an end. It felt like she purposely skipped a few facts?
That being said, having met her, she came across as a genuinely warm and kind person. I loved the stories about her interactions with her son. It made the story seem more genuine. She talks about the relationship with her husband, they come across as a happy couple. She talked about the tense relationship she had with her mother and her fondness for her father. Again, all things that made me like her, therefore, liking the book more than I would have had I not met her.
Save Me the Plums is an easy read, with some recipes included, which I plan on trying. I gave it 4, very reluctant stars, on Goodreads. I would recommend that if you want to read this, start with her first book and read them all first. By doing that, you will have a better idea of what happened in her life to bring her to the world of food.