Hannibal Free Public Library

Save Me the Plums


Ruth Reichl

September 20, 2021

2:30 – 4:00 p.m.




When Gourmet magazine closed its doors, no one was more surprised than its editor-in-chief, Ruth Reichl. Save Me the Plums is a memoir of how Reichl came to be at the magazine she pored over as a child, how she transformed it from a stuffy relic of the old guard into a publication that embraced a new culinary era, and how Gourmet magazine met its end.




Ruth Reichl is the bestselling author of the memoirs Garlic and Sapphires, Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, and Save Me the Plums, and the novel Delicious!  She was editor in chief of Gourmet magazine for ten years.  She lives in upstate New York with her husband and two cats.




1.    What made Ruth Reichl's decision to accept the position of editor-in-chief a difficult choice? Why was she hesitant to take the job? Why did she accept it?


2.    How would you describe the inside world of Conde Naste? Talk, for instance, about the perks of Reichl's job— the country club memberships, hairdressers, and much more. Does it all seem outlandish or just down right wonderful, even enviable?


3.    Reichl comments, "Children… need you around even if they ignore you. In fact, they need you around so they can ignore you." How did Reichl manage to juggle the ever-difficult job of being a working mother?


4.    There is a good deal of humor in Reichl's memoir. Which episodes delighted you most? Point to some incidents you found particularly funny or rich.


5.    And the food? Which of the many descriptions made your mouth water?


6.    At a book signing, Reichl was confronted by a chef who was fired from his job after her restaurant review talked about his "Mushy sole. Cottonly bread." He was unable to find work ever since, he told her. What do you think about the power a single restaurant critic can wield over the lives of people in the food industry? Fair? Unfair?

7.    Talk about the ways that Reichl was able to reinvent Gourmet magazine, all the revisions she made in terms of hiring and firing staff, as well as stylistic changes like reinventing Gourmet's covers. What did you find most impressive about her vision and her management style?


8.    After an incident while ordering lunch in France at the onset of the 2008 recession, Reichl tells us, "The more stars in your itinerary, the less likely you are to find the real life of another country." What does she mean? How has she finally come to see the outsized perks of magazine life?


9.    Talk about the end of Gourmet and, in Reichl's own words, her "terrible sense of failure." What brought about the magazine's closure?


Adapted from: http://www.kdl.org/sites/default/files/bciab-save-me-the-plums.pdf and https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/25191/ruth-reichl/ and https://www.amazon.com/Save-Me-Plums-Gourmet-Memoir-ebook/dp/B07H74F4XN/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=save+plums+reichl&qid=1617379693&sr=8-1