This delightful book is the memoir of Ruth Reichl, editor-in-chief at Gourmet magazine. It tells the story of her fascinating childhood and early adult adventures. She charts her ups and downs with the foods and meals shared, interspersing recipes along the way. There are a few heartbreaking moments, but overall the tone is very funny--Reichl is willing to take herself and her surroundings with a good dose of humour.
Reichl's early memories of parties thrown by her mother taught her that "food could be dangerous, especially to those who loved it" and that if "you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they are". But as the book progresses, Reichl finds out more about herself than others through watching what she eats and cooks. Her boarding school experiences in Montreal, which are tragic and hilarious, and her later journeys through France as a student all build up a picture of her as an adventurous eater, who loves to cook and learn more. It seems she always had the creativeness necessary to be a good cook. As she watched Mrs Peavey, the domestic helper, making gougere in the kitchen a young Reichl remarked that cooking seemed to her "mostly a matter of organization." Mrs Peavey deftly replied, "Ah, it is only because you have imagination that you say that."
Reichl's imagination inspired me to be more determined to try new things and to record my ideas. She knows the power of food, and by including recipes, we can all experience those memories she shares in her book. For example, Reichl the teenager used cake to make reasons to invite her whole gang over to her house. She had her eye on one Tommy Calfano, so she cooked. "I discovered [cooking] had other virtues. I wasn't pretty or funny or sexy.... I discovered the secret of every experienced cook: desserts are a cheap trick. People love them even when they're bad."
This Devil's Food Cake recipe is the one that features in one fateful teenage party. I made it to take to my colleagues for our department meeting tomorrow. Cheap trick or not, cooking for others shows them you care!
Devil's Food Cake
adapted from Tender at the Bone
1 c (250 ml) milk
3/4 c (100 g) cocoa
1/3 c (85 g) white sugar
1 c (115 g) butter
1 c (200 g) brown sugar
1/4 c (75 ml) sour cream
1 t vanilla
2 c (250 g) cake flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
Heat the milk in the microwave until hot but not boiling. Allow to cool, then whisk in cocoa and white sugar.
Meanwhile, cream butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla, and mix well. Add the cocoa mixture.
Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt, then add this mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing gently and well until combined.
Bake at 350 F/180 C for 20 to 35 minutes until a tester comes out clean.
Let cool and ice if desired.
Tender at the Bone was Jill's choice for the Kitchen Reader club I have joined. I really enjoyed reading it, but wished it had gone further into Reichl's adulthood to explain how she came to work at Gourmet. I supposed with the recent demise of the magazine, there is space for Reichl to write more, and I would pick up any sequel she chooses to write.