Book Review of
Garlic and Sapphires
Garlic and Sapphires is Ruth Reichl’s riotous account of the many disguises she employs to dine anonymously. There is her stint as Molly Hollis, a frumpy blond with manicured nails and an off-beige Armani suit that Ruth takes on when reviewing Le Cirque. The result: her famous double review of the restaurant: first she ate there as Molly; and then as she was coddled and pampered on her visit there as Ruth, New York Times food critic.
What is even more remarkable about Reichl’s spy games is that as she takes on these various disguises, she finds herself changed not just superficially, but in character as well. She gives a remarkable account of how one’s outer appearance can very much influence one’s inner character, expectations, and appetites.
As she writes, “Every restaurant is a theater…even the modest restaurants offer the opportunity to become someone else, at least for a little while.” Garlic and Sapphires is a reflection on personal identity and role playing in the decadent, epicurean theaters of the restaurant world.
I read Garlic and Sapphires after reading and loving Save Me the Plums. I wanted to love this book because I really enjoyed Save Me the Plums. Garlic and Sapphires was good, but I didn’t think it was as good as Save Me the Plums.
Part of the reason that I don’t think I enjoyed Garlic and Sapphires is that I struggled to relate to it. I have never eaten out a lot. I know a lot of people enjoy the experience of eating out. I am not one of them.
I like to occasionally eat out so that I can have a night off cooking, but to eat out for the whole experience is not for me. So the life of a restaurant critic just seems odd to me. I think part of this has to do with the current times too.
Right now you can’t go out to eat. All the restaurants are closed except for take out. It seemed odd to read a book about dining out at expensive restaurants when we are currently going through a huge crisis.
I know a lot of people love this book. I think for me it might be a case of a good book at the wrong time or a good book that just wasn’t for me.