Hannibal Free Public Library
Garlic and Sapphires
November 30, 2009
Reichl, world-renowned food critic and editor
in chief of Gourmet magazine, knows a
thing or two about food. She also knows you
need to be anonymous when reviewing
In Garlic and Sapphires, Reichl
reveals the comic absurdity, artifice, and
excellence to be found in the sumptuously
appointed stages of the epicurean world and
gives us—along with some of her favorite
recipes and reviews.
Reichl’s husband, at one point when
she gets caught up in the glamour of her job,
reminds her why food is really important.
“You love to eat, you love to write, and
you love the generosity of cooks and what
happens around the table when a great meal is
served.” How do the three components
blend in Garlic
A book reviewer says, “Ruth Reichl
manages to make not only writing about food,
but writing about writing about food both
entertaining and gastronomically bearable.”
Did you feel the format of her memoir was
In an interview with Psychology
Today, Reichl explains the importance
of food. She said, “It’s a way that we
tell the world who we are, a way of setting
boundaries. You can see it in young
children…Everybody tells about their
parents warning, “You can't leave the table
until you've eaten this or that.” And the
child will sit there, all day long and say,
“You can’t make me.” What they mean is
“I can tell you who I am through this.”
Do you agree that food can define us and our
How does Reichl touch upon topics of
gender, class and generational issues in the
world of fine food in her book?
What does she have to say about the
political and social importance of food?
During her job interview, Reichl
openly criticizes the paper’s high-brow
approach to restaurant ratings, telling the
editors that most people reading the reviews
will never be able to eat at Le Cirque
or Daniel (at least not on a regular basis)
but want to be able to imagine that they can.
How do her reviews allow people to do this?
“To say that the only thing
that matters is what's on the plate is to
miss the major role restaurants have in our
lives today,” said Reichl. Is she able to
portray that eating in a restaurant is more
than just a physical experience?
By using disguises, Reichl is able to
slip into the world of the “ordinary”
diner. She can see what each restaurant will
serve to the patrons who seem to be nobodies.
Why is important that she has this type of
experience in a restaurant? Do you feel this
allows her to write an objective review?
Which disguise is your personal
Each disguise takes on a personality.
What does Ruth learn about herself and others
through each disguise?
“Every restaurant is a theater,”
Reichl explains. “Each one offers the
opportunity to become someone else, at least
for a little while. Restaurants free us from
mundane reality.” How have
restaurants allowed you to leave reality for
Lisa Check said, “Her husband brings
to mind the poem Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
“Garlic and Sapphires in the mud” as a
way to describe the transition of Ruth. (http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/garlicsapphires.shtml)
Why is it a good title for Reichl’s
ceased publication with the November issue.
What will you miss about it?
How will you replace the recipes and
information it has provided you over the
will you return again and again to your horde
of Christmas issues?
from Book Discussion Questions developed by
staff at Manitowoc Public Library in