A couple weeks ago, I wrote a brief blog post about having dinner with Ruth Reichl, the editor-in-chief for Gourmet magazine. I then went on to get distracted with moving, wrapping up my job, etc. and never wrote my intended post. Here it is my friends!
As I mentioned earlier, this opportunity came up through my old job and I have to say it was highlight of my job perks. Ruth was in town promoting her new book, Not Becoming My Mother, and a small group of us went to dinner afterward at Beast in Portland.
In the world of food, Ruth Reichl falls into celebrity status. If you don’t know her, here is her link on Wikipedia where you can learn more. Her background was as a food writer for the LA Times and later the New York Times, where she was famously a food critic. She would dress in disguise when she went out to review a restaurant to ensure she received the same service, food quality and overall experience that other diners would receive. She then went on to become the editor-in-chief for Gourmet magazine. She is an active participant on food issues and is perhaps the most brilliant person I have ever broken bread with.
To me, Ruth is my generation’s Julia Childs. I recall a story she shared once about Julia Childs. Ruth was reviewing a restaurant in NY, in disguise, when Julia Childs walked in with a group of friends. She somehow recognized Ruth and with her loud, deep voice hollered across the room towards Ruth to say hello. Needless to say, that kind of blew Ruth’s attempt at an anonymous review.
I sat next to Ruth at the table, which made me feel like I won the lottery. We talked about women’s issues and the feminist movement. From what I gather, the food industry is still a very male-dominated one – especially on the restaurant side. It made me realize how much I take for granted that I have equal opportunity in my career and work, and I assume everyone believes the same. In some circles, it is sadly still not so.
We also talked about the American food movement in general, with people like Michael Pollan and Alice Waters making revolutionary changes to the way we eat and how we see food. As someone who gardens in the city, and wants to teach others the importance of providing food in the city, these are the people who have laid the foundation for my future work. We talked about canning marinara sauce, my flock of chickens, drank wine and talked about food and culinary travels. It was a really magical evening.
I would love to try Beast again on another night, when Ruth is not at the table. The staff seemed incredibly nervous, but the food was fabulous. It wasn’t the food that made the evening though. It was the experience of a lifetime to dine with Ruth. In case I haven’t said it yet, she really is the most brilliant person I have ever met in my life. And she has this very smart twinkle in her eye when you say something interesting that seemed to just shoot a bolt of energy right through me. She is an amazing woman.