James Beard Award Winning Food Writer Ruth Reichl brought her special brand of story telling to the Bay Harbor Yacht Club near Petoskey this week. The renowned independent book store McLean and Eakin in Petoskey, Michigan arranged for her visit. A delightful speaker, Ms. Reichl held the avid attention of her audience throughout her talk and the Q&A that followed. She won the hearts of her audience, and they won hers as well. The room hummed with good feeling and good fun.
She’s clearly a woman willing to take chances. After her job as editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine ended (while she was on book tour for the fat volume of recipes published by and titled Gourmet) she took a chance on doing something different. Her latest book is a novel, Delicious. Billie Breslin takes a job at a New York Food Magazine and her adventures begin. The story promises to be delightful as well as delicious.
Reichl’s many books include Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, and memoirs Tender At the Bone: Growing Up At the Table and Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures At the Table. In addition to the new novel, many of her readers are anxiously awaiting My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life to be released in September of this year.
Ms. Reichl has won six James Beard Awards. Her website www.ruthreichl.com draws you into her stories, and you can follow her Twitter. In addition to writing quirky restaurant reviews, she also wrote for New West Magazine. She says she tries to put her readers in a seat at a restaurant. She wants them to be able to taste the food. She was once the LA Times Restaurant Critic.
Most extraordinary was the manner in which Ms. Reichl handled the sophisticated questions from her audience. She told stories in reply, stories with humor, twists and turns. I cannot do justice to retelling her stories. You’ll have to take my word for her storytelling talent. I can share a word or two of her advice. What makes a good recipe? “Suggestion, collaboration, inspiration….makes you want to cook it again.” She shared the rule of Chekhov for the wanna-be-writers in the room. That rule reminds the writer they must know the back story of every character in their fiction. Not necessarily tell the full back story, but know the back story. In other words, know every character, even the minor ones, inside and out.
She asked how we want to spend our time? In public or private places? She appreciates a good restaurant meal but encourages us to cook at home. And well, if something goes wrong, it really doesn’t matter.
This woman is a compelling force for good food and good eating. She is a writer who is as delicious and delightful in person as she is on the page. Thank you Ruth Reichl, McClean and Eakin, and the dear friends who made it possible for me to be present for this event.