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Why I Related so Strongly to Ruth Reichl’s New Memoir

From the Editor: Everything you missed in food news last week

Ruth Reichl Alex Ulreich

This post originally appeared on March 23, 2019, in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.

This week I got the chance to interview Ruth Reichl, along with my co-host Daniel Geneen, for our podcast, the Eater Upsell. I asked Ruth to come on the show because I completely devoured the preview copy of her new memoir, Save Me the Plums, which covers her decade at Gourmet magazine. Starting with her recruitment by James Truman and S.I. Newhouse back in 1999, when she was the restaurant critic at the New York Times, and ending with the magazine’s surprise closure in 2009 in the midst of the recession, the book covers her evolution as a boss and editor as well as the evolution of food media and the food world as a whole.

Like Tina Brown’s recent dishy doorstop The Vanity Fair Diaries, this takes place (at the beginning, at least) during the golden age of Condé Nast, with its high salaries, clothing allowances, black cars, and outlandish budgets. While Reichl doesn’t share Brown’s unbridled confidence — she seems to give credit to everyone but herself — or desire to share all the gossip from within 4 Times Square (you can tell she has more juicy stories), she does successfully portray the journey of turning an iconic yet fusty magazine into something relevant and impactful. (It’s also a third the length of Brown’s book and includes a pancake recipe.)

This book hit a little close to home for me as someone in a relatable role. I actually underlined so many revealing passages that I wouldn’t let a co-worker borrow my copy.

- She grapples with overseeing a large team of people and how to be a collaborative, non-hierarchical boss.

- She wants to push the boundaries of what a food publication can and is expected to be.

- She must balance the needs of the editorial and business sides, learning when to compromise and when to stand firm.

- She questions her inclination to follow the rules, to not be a squeaky wheel.

- She has to raise her profile enough to help the publication without sacrificing too much of herself.

She also makes ungodly amounts of money and has an office and a bathroom for the office, and a driver, and stays in the nicest hotels in Paris while on assignment, and hobnobs with David Remnick and S.I. Newhouse. So I can’t say it’s like looking in a mirror. But a good read for people in and outside of food and media.

On Eater

Estuary crab roll, with bread crab-shaped garnishes and edible flowers Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Off Eater