A James Beard Award winner, former New York Times restaurant critic, and accomplished memoirist, Gourmet‘s Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl is food writing royalty. True to her personable, conversational words, Reichl was friendly and jovial during her appearance last night at Portland’s The Nines hotel, in town to discuss both the latest release from the Gourmet publications, the Gourmet Today cookbook, and her upcoming travel show, Gourmet’s Adventures With Ruth. She spoke animatedly during her visit, despite long travel hours.
On eating in Portland:
She noted her recent great meals at Ping and Beast. “You guys are so lucky…I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad meal here.”
On the new cookbook:
Reichl explained that her son was really an inspiration for the book, often phoning from college for tips on what to make for dinner. Suggesting her favorite at-home food, risotto, she was surprised that he was able to find arborio rice, the main ingredient, in his small Connecticut college town.
“We asked our [Gourmet] chefs to buy one thing from the market each week that wasn’t available there only a year prior, and we had some amazing findings.”
The cookbook contains 1043 recipes, “that were cooked at least ten times each.” “It’s stunning how many recipes in cookbooks – even from famous names – don’t work. The problem is, when a recipe doesn’t work, you think you’re doing something wrong. I think [bad] cookbooks are responsible for turning a lot of people off from cooking.”
“I really love this book,” Reichl gushed. “The book came from bringing ingredients into the kitchen and saying, ‘What can we do to make this wonderful?’ Kale, for instance, is delicious. I’m convinced if we could get everyone to try it, we would become a nation of kale eaters. This generation really cares about the nature of their food and that bodes well for the future.”
No pictures in the cookbook?
An audience member asked about the lack of photos in both cookbooks, a contrast to Gourmet‘s colorful pages.
“I believe cookbooks and magazines are different beasts. When we did the first book, I didn’t want it to be a coffeetable book. I wanted it to have a function, to be a workhorse. I wanted it to live in people’s kitchens.”
Any good advice for culinary students and restaurant newbies?
‘It gets better. It’s the hardest profession there is. Long hours, hard work. If you like it, keep going.”
Her take on food blogs:
“I wish I had time to read more of them. At one point, I was reading twenty a day. I think they’re part of what’s so wonderful about what’s going on in the food world today.”