Save Me the Plums

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

I love reading Ruth Reichl. She is passionate, funny, adventurous and articulate. This memoir of the ten years she spent as the last editor of Gourmet magazine is fun, sad, enlightening, and very much captures the excitement and camaraderie of that time and place.

For those of us, like Ruth, who grew up with Gourmet, it was fascinating to get an insider's view of how the magazine operated, the test kitchens, and the people who created it. And reading about the end of it all was tinged with melancholy and nostalgia.

Her writing is laced with insights and philosophy, as well as the occasional recipe. I did her her speak on a book tour once, and she came across in person as she does in print -- unpretentious and approachable.

Thanks to the publisher and to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Ruth Reichl was a top food critic when she decided to take a job as the editor-in-chief at Gourmet Magazine, the culinary food magazine of its time. But in her new memoir we see she is so much more than the 10 year editor of Gourmet who sadly was their last as they shockingly closed in 2009.

When she was just 8 years old, coming from humble beginnings with a mother who was bipolar and spent hours and days and months in deep depression, and a father who not only adored Ruth, but adored his wife none the less, she read her first issue of Gourmet Magazine and she was hooked.  It was then she made the decision to pursue something in the food industry, so when offered the job at the magazine she was frightened, honored and excited.

Feeling as if everyday would be her last, Reichl went on to change the magazine's direction into the popular bibliophile it became under her tenure.

She tells stories in the book of making a bet of $100 that they would not lose subscribers if they put a dead fish on the cover (they did not), to writer David Foster Wallace's travel piece about a Maine Lobster Festival and the killing of lobsters.

We also meet many of the eccentric personalities who graced the halls during her tenure.  We see how her immediate family, her son Nick, a young child when she took the job and her husband Michael supported her and gave her sage feedback and advice. She also describes the aftermath of 9/11 and how the New York food industry bonded together to assist the first responders.

There are mouthwatering descriptions of meals she has had the pleasure of experiencing which make the reader wish they had been there to witness and taste. And if that is not enough, she even includes a few of her favorite recipes.

As a fan of Reichl, I loved her novel Delicious and her travel show on television, I ravenously"ate up" her stories and her life during her time at Gourmet.

Thank you #NetGalley #Random House #Save Me the Plums #Ruth Reichl
The book will be out on April 2.
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For ten years Ruth Reichl helmed Gourmet magazine, turning the tired and worn publication back into the cultural achievement it once was. However, she initially balked at the idea of taking control. In 1999 she was the food critic for The New York Times— a writer first and last, she certainly had no interest in managing a staff of sixty. But Gourmet was a magazine that sparked her culinary career when she discovered it at eight years old … How could she resist? The next ten years became a whirlwind of learning how to head a magazine, navigating publishing egos, and, above all else, dishing out great food.

In Save Me the Plums, the best of these stories are on display. Richl works linearly, showcasing her trepidation at taking control of a massive publication with minimal managerial experience. She’s obviously anxious, something that’s palpable on the page all these years later. It’s a testament to her writing. She’s frank, candid, and brutally honest about her successes and failures. This is particularly effective as she gains confidence and is forced into working situations with so many high profile names and even larger personalities. For some, this would come off like name dropping. For Reichl, it’s just her exploring the wonder and absurdity that was her life working for a Condé Nast publication.

In the opening section of the book, Reichl makes mention that those reading this book probably have some connection to Gourmet. This almost does a disservice to her writing. Sure, those with a familiar with the magazine will have a special reaction to her discussing the test kitchens or working on specific covers and features. However, Reichl’s work is almost like poetry— lyrical with no words wasted. Behind all the hullabaloo of office life, it’s really about the basics of food, and her careful prose make any readers hungry for more.

Reichl’s ability to weave a memoir into an examination of food and a changing industry is unparalleled. Funny, thoughtful, and enlightening— this book cannot be recommended enough.
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I miss Gourmet magazine! I miss it every month. I have a few copies squirreled away, as well as innumerable recipes I cut and saved. And I have a couple of the cookbooks. I didn't always make the recipes- too many of them had too many ingredients and were too fiddly for me- but I loved to read the articles. I was thrilled to get this latest memoir from Ruth Reichl as an ARC from Netgalley. She's written a love letter to the magazine (and included some recipes). Some of the scenes are priceless; I always wondered about the test kitchen. This is the perfect read for fans of the magazine, those who enjoy food writing, and those looking for a well written and wry memoir. Two thumbs up!
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Ruth Reichl's memoir this time focuses on her time as the editor-in-chief of Gourmet. Her writing about her experiences with food has always been fascinating and great, but this one is also interesting for what she experienced in the magazine publishing world, especially at a difficult time for that industry. Lots of details about what made her decide to take the job and the work she did and the fights she took on to update and elevate the magazine. There's also a lot of stories about the challenges (and what she didn't enjoy)- courting advertisers, feeling like the low rung on the ladder as publishers were shifted around, the struggle to create the magazine when budgets were slashed. The chapters in which she talks about the abrupt end of Gourmet were touching and sad. There's passion and humor in this story, and Reichl's writing is always so completely engaging and unpretentious.
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DNF at 31%. 

Generally I like reading memoirs about people and establishments with which I am unfamiliar in the hopes of improving my broad cultural literacy, but because I was not already familiar with the author or Gourmet magazine (being more of a Food Network/Netflix kind of person) I just couldn’t get invested. 

I couldn’t tell how much was name-dropping and how much was awe; the narrative seemed scattered between being in over her head, the struggles of working-motherhood in a culture that expects you to “do it all,” and to some extent pure love of food and cooking and experimenting in the kitchen? I’m not entirely sure. At best I could muster some sympathy, but there’s also a certain amount of privilege: “We’re going to keep pushing this editor position at you even though you (rightly) decline due to lack of experience!” 

And having grown up with Asian cuisine, I have to admit I’m not enthused about the narrative of “bringing exotic tastes/ingredients/recipes to the American public” — I know it’s part of the food culture and that this is a memoir looking back at her career, but it still makes me a little uncomfortable. But aside from marveling at the marvelous “foreignness” of seafood and certain fruits, it does seem to be a respectful appreciation for the food (though I didn’t see much, if anything, about the corresponding cultures), and the included recipes do look interesting. Once I got over being thrown by the appearance of the first one, 7 chapters into the book (and right as I was thinking that the spicy noodles she makes for her son are something I might want to try and recreate!), I could appreciate their inclusion since this is a book about food.
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"Save Me the Plums,” Ruth Reichl’s memoir of her time at Gourmet Magazine, is a delightful look back at a particular time and place when the role of food and cooking in American life were undergoing a sea change.  Reichl exposes the underbelly of Condé Nast’s vast publishing empire at the time. She does it in a way that feels both self-deprecating, and celebratory of the role that the Gourmet team played.
The series of travel and food vignettes take us from luxury Paris  back around to penny-pinching, post Wall Street crash Paris with many stops along the way.  I particularly enjoyed her stories of her son Nick’s childhood and young adulthood during her time at the magazine.
I ended the book wanting to go back and read some of the great writing that Gourmet published during Reichl’s tenure.  I also ended feeling as I did the day I heard that Gourmet had ended, the sadness of hearing that a great cultural icon had fallen.  
Many thanks to Reichl for writing this book, and to Random House and Net Galley for providing me the opportunity to review an advance copy.
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“Save Me the Plums” is, without a doubt, a TREASURE! I tore through it in a few days and loved every minute of reading Reichl’s story. She is a masterful story-teller and if you know anyone who appreciates a good meal or enjoys showing their love by cooking, this book would be the perfect gift.  

I literally have NEVER purchased or even read a copy of “Gourmet” magazine but after reading Reichl’s memoir I’ve been scouring my favorite used bookstores for back issues. Her story is so compelling, I just want to hear more from her!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review.  I will most definitely be purchasing my own copy because the recipes are too good not to try.

#NetGalley #SaveMeThePlums #GourmetMagazine #RuthReichl
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Thank you very much to Random House and Netgalley for the advanced copy of Ruth Reichl’s latest memoir. Although I’ve had her book Tender at the Bone on my TBR list for almost 10 years, I still hadn’t read it. Generally I’m not a fan of memoirs. But I had read her novel Delicious and remembered it being entertaining, so I thought I’d give this one a try. This book was quite enjoyable. I do enjoy reading about food and was a Gourmet subscriber at one time, so the ups and downs of the magazine, layered on my own recollections, were interesting to me. It was a quick fun read, a little gossipy and gave me insight into publishing at that time. Other than hearing about Anna Wintour, I didn’t know much about Condé Nast. I recommend this for anyone who likes memoirs, cooking or just magazines. I will be making it a point to read her other works now.
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Another great book by Ruth Reichl! This book tells the fascinating story of her time at Gourmet magazine and the changes she made there. Reading this made me miss Gourmet more than I already did. I've been waiting for this book ever since Garlic and Sapphires and it did not disappoint.
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It's Ruth Reichl's Gourmet memoir! I've been so curious about her thoughts on Gourmet, what it was like to run the magazine, and what it was like when it closed.

The book began with Ruth receiving an offer from Conde Nast. She takes quite a bit of time at the start of the book to show that working for Conde Nast was a totally different world to her ( and to most of us, I'd guess). At the time, Reichl was working as restauarant critic for the New York Times. While she loved the job and her co-workers, she was getting tired of eating out 14 times per week and rarely being able to eat with her family. If you've read her other memoirs, you'll know that she is a cook at heart, and restaurant critics don't get to cook much. 

Conde Nast was a world where secret meetings were set because the magazine editors and owners feared that the press would get wind of the possible change in editors. It's a world of limousines and clothing allowances, all paid for by the magazine because style was at least as important as substance. It was a world that was about selling a lifestyle at least as much as providing information. Reichl did not feel comfortable in this world and its unthinking privilege. She also didn't think she had the background to edit a magazine. But- she did have a connection to Gourmet. She had encountered the magazine first as a little girl and it had shown her the romance and culture that could go along with good food. However, by the time that she was tapped for heading up the magazine in the 90's, Gourmet was out of touch with the average cook. It was about high-priced restaurants, lofty aspirations, and complicated recipes that most home cooks would be intimidated to try. 

Reichl did turn the magazine around. I started subscribing to Gourmet in about 2005. I found the recipes to be surprisingly accessible and I can credit it for a lot of the education I got about new and interesting ingredients, cooking techniques that I could do and gave me confidence in the kitchen, and articles that made me think about where food comes from. It was educational, it was fun, and I learned to cook from that magazine as much as from anywhere else. I remember the article on halal meat and slaughtering that Reichl references in the book, years after I read it first. I didn't even know what halal meat was, and the article was disturbing because of how personal it made the act of slaughtering an animal for meat. But the reverence given to the animal and to the meat that it provided made me think about how the act of slaughter could actually be spiritual instead of impersonal and automated- we have lost something there. 

Why did I rate the book only a 3? Because I was confused by much of the book. There were SO MANY names, and I couldn't keep track of who was who- a photographer, a publisher, an editor? And what's the difference between a publisher and an editor at a magazine anyway? I never figured it out. There was discussion about ad revenue, but I never felt like I really understood how the magazine worked. Reichl made fun of herself for not being able to figure out magazine jargon (what's a yaffy? It's a You Asked For It recipe from a restaurant- I remember those!) but she used a lot of shorthand herself and I felt left behind in all the terminology, names, and skimmed-over incidents. 

Ruth Reichl is a very gracious writer- she gives credit to numerous people who changed the finances, advertising, photography and writing of the magazine, but she doesn't talk much about what she herself did. I wanted to know more about what she herself did. 

And I was never quite sure about how to feel about the people she discussed. Some of them seemed unlikable but she apparently had affection for them. Si Newhouse, for example, the owner of Conde Nast when she worked there. The description of the interviews that she had with him and her subsequent work relationship- it felt very uncomfortable to me but she mentioned him in her dedication. And it was Si's decision to shutter Gourmet! Between November and December, without even putting out a last holiday issue (I always looked forward to that issue and the cookie recipes). It was brutal, and I found it unforgivable as a reader- what must it have been like for the employees? Reichl foreshadows this event- we all know it's coming- but I felt like I wanted it explored more. It was hurtful to me because I had really grown to love that magazine- far more than Bon Appetit (also by Conde Nast) it spoke to me. It seemed like it was all about the money at the end, no matter the dedication of the staff and the excellent product that they put out. 

There was a lovely chapter about Paris where Reichl found a dress that flattered and fit her like it was made for her. But I did not agree with the decision she made at the end of the chapter!!!! If you're getting a clothing allowance, get the killer dress. You've already got two homes and aren't Bohemian anymore- getting the dress isn't going to make you a sellout. 

So, I felt that I didn't really understand what it was like to be at Gourment much better after reading the book, and that's where the 3 comes from.
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A wonderful memoir of Ruth Reichl's time as the chief editor of Gourmet magazine. At times it was hard for me to understand the privilege and glamor that came with the job, but I appreciated the insight of how magazine publishing industry worked at the time. I enjoyed the abundant description of food and places that Reichl experienced along the way. Definitely don't read this book while hungry. :)
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I always thought the end of Gourmet was a terrible tragedy. But of course, now magazines are dying all around us, and there doesn't seem to be a way to stop it. (Buy more magazines, would be one. I guess.)

Anyway, I've liked most of Reichl's work, and this is not an exception. She's a good writer, and she's an especially good food writer. Which is why I like her memoirs when I don't like any other memoirs.

Thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for the digital ARC.
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I don't often read 921 books as most biographies and autobiographies are just a retelling of the timeline of a persons life.  This book is different.  We all remember Gourmet magazine and this story of the editor of that magazine in it's last 10 years is delightful.  Ruth is a wonderful writer and gives you an insight to her love of food and how it focused her life.  You learn a little about the politics of the industry but she does not involve you in the politics as she herself remained outside the political play of the field.  I want to start to read the magazines that  are archived on line and enjoy the history and flavors that were ahead of their times.
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Save Me the Plums. a foodie memoir by Ruth Reichl, is fantastic, quick paced and easy to read. It takes you inside the monied, glitzy world of Condé Nast while Ms. Reichl was editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. This memoir deserves a 5-star rating.
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If you have followed Ruth Reichl through her memoirs, this takes place between Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise and My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, telling the story of her experience as the editor for Gourmet Magazine up until its shocking closure. I feel this memoir is for foodies first, but will also be of interest for anyone in publishing or the arts. The people working for Gourmet cultivated an environment of creative exploration and perfection that made the magazine what it is, and I loved reading about each person's contributions and how the magazine reflected the changing culture of food in the United States. There's an entire chapter, for instance, about the publication of "Consider the Lobster" by David Foster Wallace, which I had no idea was first published in Gourmet!

In a different voice, I can see how this story could be obnoxious. So many famous people, so many fancy meals and expensive restaurants, so many trends in food and fashion. But Ruth Reichl is so direct, honest, and open that the story transforms into something more heartwarming than it feels it has the right to be. 

Unlike My Kitchen Year which is sometimes referred to as a cookbook (although I personally still feel it is more memoir than recipe), this memoir only has 3-4 recipes. I had my eye on that chocolate cake that helped her establish kitchen credibility with her staff, so I made it and posted to Instagram and JennyBakes.
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One of a number of memoirs by Ruth Reichl,  Save Me the Plums, was my first introduction to this well-known food writer and restaurant critic.   In this book, she shares her somewhat risky decision to accept the position of editor of Gourmet magazine and her journey as she learns the ropes of the publishing world while balancing her family life.

This was an intriguing look behind the scenes at two worlds - that of food/cooking and publishing.   Even though I’m not a foodie by any means, I actually found the food side to be more interesting perhaps because I already had knowledge of the publishing side.  I’ve already decided to read some of Reichl’s earlier books to pursue that theme.  Her descriptions of various foods, recipes, and taste testing were delightful as well as tempting!

However, this book definitely focuses more on the inner workings of the publishing world.  As a novice to her new position, we learn a lot about that world right along with Reichl over her ten years with the famed magazine until it ceased publication in 2009.

Written in a very personal and engaging style, this book will definitely appeal to foodies and fans of Ruth Reichl.   Beyond that, it also gives a look back at part of our literary culture that is/has changed dramatically.


FYI - I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Ruth Reichl returns with a memoir about the heady days as editor in chief of the prestigious Conde Nast Gourmet Magazine. Becoming an integral part of this magazine was always her dream. When her dream comes true she puts her epicurean expertise to work but soon learns that putting together a monthly magazine involves areas that she had somehow placed on her back burner! Ruth, with a cadre of efficient and loyal staff members and associates soon takes the magazine to places (subscribers) it has never been before. Unfortunately, Gourmet’s success is only as good as the highflying economy it exists in. When things take a downturn, Ruth and her crew try novel ways to fight back. And sometimes, the fight, memories and camaraderie are all one may have left. 

Each chapter could be a stand-alone essay. The best ones include a recipe! Two favorite chapters include ones focusing on her son, and a trip to Paris to rediscover the simplicity of finding the heart of her mission. Although some of the food and flavors will be very strange and new, Ruth’s enthusiasm and determination make you want to swallow this book whole! Recommended.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book.
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I love Ruth Reichl books! I love how she describes her experiences with food and makes your mouth water. I like how she always takes her time before choosing a new path or decision. This book, much like her others, didn't disappoint. I loved the trip to Paris and just her exploration. 

Thanks NetGalley for the ARC!
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I am not a foodie. My husband is pure meat and potatoes,and I only look adventurous next to him. I didn’t subscribe to Gourmet and was basically intimidated by the title when I was a young woman. However I knew Ruth Reichl and her reviews for The NY Times and I had read some of her earlier writings. This particular chapter of her many volume memoir focuses on her ten years leading Gourmet to the front of the food revolution and then presiding over its demise. It is a fascinating story and she is a remarkable writer. 
Nowadays even our local restaurant reviewers wax elegiac about cuisine with the most pretentious descriptions of rather ordinary fare. Ruth Reichl can create a tone poem that will have you salivating about sea creatures and calves’ brains and sauces so obscure you don’t recognize half the ingredients. Whether a five course dinner from a three star restaurant or pancakes she whipped up in her own kitchen, Reichl uses language as the great chef she is - seasoned to perfection and shared with the readers in a great feast.
When she is not writing about food, she is talking about the people behind the food — the chefs and writers and her friends and family who share her love for a good meal and the camaraderie found around a table. Despite her power and influence, she comes across as the most unpretentious of souls, and her stories are the kind you enjoy, sitting around after a good meal. 
I am so glad to have had the chance to read this story of what was clearly a very special publication, but this book is a treasure for another reason, Whether you are crazy about food or just enjoy a good meal.  Reichl creates a desire in the reader to embrace life like a feast, tasting it with all your senses and sharing your pleasure with others. I hope there are more stories to come.
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