Garlic & Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Food Critic

Garlic & Sapphires August 2012 Book Review

August 2012 Book Review for The Kitchen Reader Book Club

Have you ever imagined dressing up in disguise, did you ever? Better still was it a success? Well imagine if you were a food critic dressing up in disguise to review restaurants. Too add to the excitement the disguise changed each time.  Not only that, but each disguise brought with it new self learning which the author wasn’t expecting. Nearly out of breath here… Well this is exactly what Ruth Reichl did as a food critic for the New York Times. Really just so so cool I think.

The Disguises:

They started as a result of a conversation Ruth Reichl had with an intrusive fellow passenger on a flying visit to New York before the actual big move itself with the family. From this one-sided conversion (all from the other passenger’s side) it was clear that in order to perform her critic’s role fully she needed to be able to do it properly. It was also obvious she never be able to dine anywhere without being recognised with the resulting lavish treatment bestowed on her a food critic. Also as her main aim was to review restaurants for people who’d save up to go she wanted to ensure her review would help them make up their minds if the particular restaurant was worthy of their hard earned cash.

Each disguise represented very different lifestyles and backgrounds. Take for example, Molly the teacher, Brenda the hippie, Betty the old lady, Chloe the blonde. The aforementioned are my favourites: Molly as it was her first disguise, Brenda the hippy as I couldn’t wait to see the reaction of the restaurant and other diners. Chloe the blonde, well as a brunette did she answer the eternal question “do blondes have more fun” – well you’ll just have to read the book for the answer! Suffice it to say she did go on a date which none of the rest of them did, I’ll say no more…

Garlic & Sapphires is enhanced by the different disguises. I found there wasn’t time to be bored as I no sooner got used to one character then another was brought in to replace it. The role takes over the author’s mood, how she deals with others and the way she dresses. It was fascinating to watch (I mean read) both how the other customers and the restaurant staff would deal with each of the disguises.

Garlic & Sapphires

August 2012 Book Review

Ruth Riechl writes like I’d love to write. You know the ones I’m talking about. You are brought straight into the action. It’s as if she is relaying her story to you in her kitchen, while you eagerly clutch on to your cuppa, listening intently to her every word as the story unfolds in your mind’s eye. Instantly feeling like you’re there with her, sharing the ups and downs, wondering where is your share of the food, at times heart palpitating wondering will it all end well.

Her personal life seeps seamlessly in many times. Her loving husband, a dote of a son both so supportive, the struggle with working late at night and not always being there for the family evening meal. All these brought you closer to this author. I felt for her as her friend died of cancer. The personal life seemed to be the thread holding all the various stories in place to form a whole, gave them all meaning, instead of being little patches of time lost in space.


I was enthralled both by the writing style and the stories within. As I read it on holidays I found it’s layout invaluable and very “take up and downable”. With this book I’m left with a desire to dress up in a disguise and try it out myself. Would you be brave enough to do it? Darn I should’ve done it for this post, in either the hippy or the Blonde role. Would’ve been interesting to see what I’d write, or how I’d behave. Oh must put them on my bucket list, anyone game to try it with me?

Garlic & Sapphires is definitely worth a read and the stories are truly amusing and definitely a book for women to enjoy on holidays.

Hope you’re going to have a fantastic weekend. I’m baking spelt cakes free from dairy and egg and so looking forward to that.

Enjoy! (and have loads of fun whatever you’re at).


The Kitchen Reader Book Club welcomes new members. In short we read food related books and review them monthly. If you’re interested check out more details  at The Kitchen Reader Book Club.



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Categories: Kitchen Reader Book Club, Uncategorized


Home cook, Irish food blogger and live a plant-based lifestyle. I also co-own of with my hubs where you'll find online courses, vegan chocolates and lots more to help a transition to a plant-based diet or live with someone who is a carnivore.


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5 Comments on “Garlic & Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Food Critic”

  1. September 2, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    Marian, thanks for the choice this month. What a great review – you make it clear that Reichl was trying to help her readers with those disguises. She really put herself more on the side of the normal people who can’t afford to eat at fancy restaurants more than a few times a year than with the celebrities who get fawned over.

    • September 2, 2012 at 8:56 am #

      Tks Sarah, I liked that fact too. I’ve seen food critics in a restaurants and the carry on. I tend not to listen to critics of any kind, I prefer to make up my own mind. However if Ruth Reichl gave a review of one I think I’d sit up and listen.

  2. Iris
    September 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    “Ruth Riechl writes like I’d love to write” — totally agree! Her writing is simple and unpretentious, yet so, so good. Sh really gets you invested in her story. Wish I knew how to write like that. Thanks for the choice this month! I would have never thought I would enjoy this book so much.

    • September 5, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

      Iris, thanks:) I was the same with this book. It had been sitting around the house for months, only for the push to nominate a book who knows when I’d get to read it. Sarah on Simply Cooked did a review of one Ruth Reich’s other books, so must have a look to see if I’ll buy it, though am pretty hooked on her style after this book. Chat soon. Marian


  1. Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl: August Round-Up | The Kitchen Reader - September 2, 2012

    […] Marian at Spelt for Choice […]

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